Southeast Asia faces development threats caused by climate change, biodiversity degradation, and environmental pollution. Youth comprise 40% of the population in the five lower Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

To leverage the great potential of youth and address climate-related threats, the USAID Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative – Mekong (YSEALI-Mekong) is enhancing the leadership capabilities of youth. YSEALI-Mekong provides the skills, knowledge, training, exposure, and connections to empower youth to act on climate change, biodiversity, and environmental issues and to contribute to the sustainable development of the Mekong region. YSEALI-Mekong will also build the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City’s Institute for Leadership Development as a regional center to sustain the program.

Key Activities

The YSEALI-Mekong initiative will:

  • Develop a contextualized environmental leadership curriculum that builds on local assets and strengthens capacity of youth leaders to tackle climate change and environmental challenges in the region
  • Increase capacity of Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh (VNU-HCM) to lead, execute, and sustain the YSEALI-Mekong program
  • Provide opportunities for youth leaders to engage with existing national and regional youth networks
  • Provide self-directed learning experiences (i.e., workplace-based learning) through Leadership in Action and Environmental Changemakers grants


  • A contextualized environmental leadership training curriculum co-created with VNU-HCM and select partners
  • 700 qualified youth from diverse and inclusive backgrounds participating in the program
  • 80% of youth leaders to more effectively lead or take action to address climate change, biodiversity, and environmental issues
  • Capacity increased for VNU-HCM to lead, execute, and sustain youth leadership programs through the program

Youth will have more supportive networks, opportunities, and cross-border collaboration to realize their goals:

  • 172 interventions co-led by youth cohort members
  • 60 climate responsive innovations supported
  • 95 local, regional, international, and U.S.-based organizations engaged

Learn More

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Vietnam

Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (Columbia IRI) and the Institute for Leadership Development (ILEAD) under Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCM)