For Immediate Release

Press Release

Phnom Penh, March 4, 2024 – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched the first round of grants under the new Advancing Youth Leadership (AYL) project.  AYL is a five-year program to strengthen youth leadership skills and empower youth to engage in civic activities and community development.  

AYL seeks to reach youth in the 15-29 year old age range with special consideration for those from traditionally under-represented groups and marginalized communities, including LGBTQI+ communities, those living with disabilities, and those from ethnic, indigenous or religious minority groups. 

USAID’s 2019 Cross-Sector Cambodia Youth Assessment found that youth are interested in what is happening in their communities and want to contribute to community development and problem solving.  However, many do not have access to opportunities to develop skills, share ideas, or gain practical experience to meaningfully participate.  The assessment found most youth capacity initiatives remain small and localized. 

At the launch event in Phnom Penh, USAID/Cambodia Mission Director Ms. Kerry Pelzman noted that global trends suggest youth are experiencing major technological, economic, and social transformations amidst significant global changes.  Supporting youth initiatives today is an important investment for Cambodia’s future. 

“The experiences of young Cambodians today are different from that of their parents’ generation or grandparents.  Technology and globalization allows you to connect to peers near and far,” Ms. Pelzman said. “Knowing the value in supporting youth firsthand, it is with great pleasure that I join you today and launch USAID/Cambodia Advancing Youth Leadership’s grants call.”

Phnom Penh youth Tep Bunnak shared the benefits he has gained through youth volunteering with a local civil society organization. “I have increased my courage and gained opportunities to participate in many programs to improve myself.  I began to love society more, and have had good connections and help from people around me,” Bunnak said. “I would like to thank USAID and AYL for paying attention to the training for young people and providing opportunities for us to participate in many volunteer and development activities.”

Through the AYL program, grantees will receive funding to scale interventions to engage youth in strengthening core competencies, including:

  • Life skills and fundamentals of leadership (e.g., goal orientation, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication skills);

  • Fundamental community development skills (e.g., civic engagement, problem and solution identification);

  • Digital and media literacy skills;

  • Professional pathways (e.g., career development centers, paid internships, career coaching); and

  • Practical action experiences (e.g., youth-led microgrants and youth-led and -focused community events and festivals).

The grants are open to applications from local for-profit and non-profit entities.  They will roll out in future months to three additional locations, including the Siem Reap hub (covering Kampong Thom, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, and Pursat), the Ratanikiri hub (covering Stung Treng and Mondulkiri), and the Takeo hub (covering Kampot, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng).  These hubs were established to cover these 14 provinces, which represent over 66 percent of the population with highest density youth and marginalized groups.  

Cambodia has the largest youth and adolescent population in Southeast Asia, with over 60 percent of the population under the age of 30 and almost 37 percent between the age of 10 and 29.  Currently, nearly 43 percent of the working-age population in Cambodia is between the age of 15 and 29.

“Youth are the critical stakeholders for Cambodia’s future,” Nicole Johnson, Chief of Party for AYL, said during the launch. “Through AYL, local organizations will be resourced and supported to engage youth in developing the skills and gaining the experience they need to shape that future.”

USAID supports AYL through its implementing partner Chemonics International.  In addition to empowering youth, USAID focuses on supporting the people of Cambodia through inclusive and sustainable economic growth, improved health, education, and welfare for Cambodians, greater protections of human rights, and greater government accountability and transparency.


For more information:


Nicole Johnson
Chief of Party, USAID Advancing Youth Leadership

Ms. Kerry Pelzman, second from the left joined the AYL launching event in Phnom Penh.
USAID Cambodia/2024/Douglas Johnson
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