Gender Developments In APEC

Manila, Philippines, 15 October 1998
  • Speech by Ambassador Dato' Noor Adlan, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
It is an honour to be part of this Ministerial Meeting on Women and to be invited to report on the gender developments in APEC. Before doing so, I wish to express my congratulations to the members of the Preparatory Meetings for the APEC Ministerial on Women for a work well done. To the Republic of the Philippines in particular, you have not only provided the venue and organisation for an effective meeting but have shown persevering enthusiasm in sustaining the interest among member economies over the past year. And by being here, we have returned to the roots of gender developments in APEC. For it was the Economic Leaders when meeting in this country in 1996 decided to place special emphasis on encouraging the full participation of women in APEC's economic and technical cooperation activities. The informal network of women in academe/civil society and government from APEC economies was also formed here in Manila in October 1996 to promote the integration of gender perspectives in APEC's work.
This Meeting cannot have come at a more appropriate time. The financial and economic crises has given an added weight to the issue under consideration. The APEC Finance Ministers Meeting at Kananaskis, Canada stated and which was underpined by the findings of the Task Force on Human Resources on Social Impacts of the Financial crises that the heaviest burden is borne by the already disadvantaged segments of society, including women. However, there is some silver lining in the cloud. The profile of the economic and technical cooperation agenda of APEC, which has itself been a matter of some contention, is now behind us. We have come out of the shadow of this debate and with Malaysia, the APEC Chair for this year, giving economic and technical cooperation activities their due weight to ensure the proper balance and integration of the 3 pillars of APEC activities. Indeed the proper management of the ECOTECH pillar has itself also become a key priority for APEC. Our own evaluation as well as those by outside groups have found that we have much work to do to ensure that these activities achieve concrete results. That we should distinguish between process and product. We want product outcomes. At the same time, the key of the APEC process has been to concentrate on practical value added input, building and carving its niche, rather than duplicating the work of other regional and international bodies.
Gender developments in APEC is something that has been moving up on its agenda and showing significant improvement not only from the perspectives of a more receptive and friendly APEC environment but in the substantive considerations given at the level of specific activities being undertaken by the APEC fora. At the policy level the leaders had made it clear. At the APEC sectoral Ministerial Meetings, some have been more specific and focused than others. For example at the recent 5th APEC Ministerial Meeting, Ministers responsible for SMEs when it adopted the Integrated Plan for SME Development (SPAN) which serves as a guide to member economies, the Plan included the special concerns of micro enteprises and SMEs operated and managed by women. The Ministers also "emphasised the importance of eliminating barriers to the full participation and contribution of women to our respective economies; and noted the establishment of the confederation of Women's Business Councils in APEC economies as a catalyst to facilitate and enhance business networking and partnerships among women entrepreneurs."
APEC is a young organisation formed in 1989. Its Secretariat was set up in 1993 with a staff of 16 officers. Women representation in the Secretariat was at 18%. Today its staff strength stands at 45, of which 48% are made up of women. Among the 30 professional officers made up of secondees and locally recruited professionals, 12 are women who occupy posts involved in project evaluation, research and analysis, information services and publications, administration and finance.
Women participation based on a recent random survey taken by the Secretariat has also improved. At the meetings held at the APEC Secretariat from January to September this year which constituted two Meetings of the Budget and Administrative Committee (BAC), one each for the Groups on Intellectual Property Rights, Task Force on E-Commerce and the Sub-Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (ESC), the level of women participants was at about 25-30% of the number of participants. The 5th Meeting of the APEC Ministers responsible for SME's held in Kuala Lumpur in early September saw women participation accounting for 25% of the 160 participants. At the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), though women representatives currently form only 10%, these ABAC representatives are lobbying for women representative to reach 30% by the year 2000.
The APEC process is supportive in providing a forum, albeit not formally linked to the APEC structure to delegations representing women's organisations and leaders. These meetings have met in the economies of the APEC Chairs for the year since its inception in 1996. The 4th Women Leaders Network Meeting will be held next June in Wellington as part of New Zealand's responsibility.
The APEC fora have been actively involved in promoting gender related activities in their work. A complete list is located in the Secretariat Website ( ) and also in the technical papers as before you. I would not dwell on them but suffice for me to say that certain APEC fora are more focused than others. The ones that have specifically generated gender-related activities projects included in the areas of SME, Industrial Science and Technology, Transport, Tourism and Fisheries and with the bulk in HRD. The thrust in all these projects related to capacity building, access to information, best practices and human resource development.
The work of gender development has begun in APEC. As APEC moves its efforts to engender growth and equitable development towards building and nurturing a sense of community in the Asia-Pacific region, clearly all members of the community need to work together and be connected. Indeed, APEC's long-term success will depend on continued creativity and innovation that are part of a sustained dialogues with interested stakeholders. This meeting provdes such an opportunity. It is hoped that we will go away from here with confidence, determination and a vision to meet the challenges of gender development in the new millenium.
Thank you.