25th APEC Human Resources Development Working Group Meeting

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 30 June 2003
  • Remarks by Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn, Honorable Minister of Human Resources, Malaysia
Datuk Iskander Dzakurnain, Director General of the Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister's Department
Dr. Mohd. Nasir Mohd. Ashraf, Lead Shepherd of the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to address all of you in the presence of Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn and Datuk Iskander Dzakurnain who kindly grace today's gathering. I would also like to thank the Government of Malaysia for generously hosting this meeting, which is also symbolic Malaysia's commitment to further the objectives of APEC and the aspirations of Leaders for a prosperous Asia-Pacific community.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, Human Resources Development or HRD is acquiring increasing importance, as people and their knowledge and skills become a decisive factor in economic growth and prosperity. Within the APEC process, HRD is a cross-cutting issue that transcends the activities of all APEC fora. It is an essential factor in achieving the objectives of APEC through economic and technical cooperation, and trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation.
While the Human Resources Development Working Group or HRDWG has its eight priority areas of work, it remains essential for the HRDWG to keep abreast of and remain focused on the important policy developments that take place in the APEC process. This will enable the HRDWG to maximize its contribution towards and remain relevant to the APEC process.
APEC 2003 Year Themes
In the APEC 2003 Year hosted by Thailand, APEC fora have been asked to bear in mind the theme and sub-themes for the year when planning their work programmes.
The APEC 2003 Year theme is "A World of Differences: Partnership for the Future". Bringing together the best potential of all APEC economies to confront the challenges of the future is the overarching goal of the APEC 2003 Year. Regardless of cultural diversity and levels of economic development, all APEC economies possess unique strengths to share with their partners in the remaining economies. As the APEC region moves towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment for developed economies by 2010 and for developing economies by 2020, the diversity of our region is our strength for the future.
This central theme is further explained and supported by a series of five sub-themes that are designed to guide APEC's Working Groups and Forums in achieving their goals for the year:
Knowledge-Based Economy or KBE for All
KBE is the foundation of economic growth in the APEC region. Within the APEC 2003 Year, APEC should continue its work in support of the knowledge-based economy, maximizing the combined potential of information and communications technology, HRD and an enabling legal and regulatory framework. APEC's work in this area will enhance economies' abilities to engage in broader trade and investment liberalization towards the Bogor Goals.
Promoting Human Security
Empowering people to become active and self-reliant in the regional economy is the essence of promoting human security. Through capacity building programmes and providing opportunities for HRD, the strengths and potential of all people in the APEC region can be better realized. As the region moves towards the Bogor Goals, the process of change must be properly coordinated and social safety nets strengthened to ensure that economic and social opportunities are accessible to all stakeholders. Human security is also about the ability to respond to threats to human well-being, such as the threat of terrorism and emerging infectious diseases such as SARS.
Financial Architecture for a World of Differences
Reducing vulnerabilities while enhancing investment and trade between the differing social systems and economies requires sound and compatible market based systems and infrastructure. Through its dialogue on the international financial architecture APEC is in a position to play a substantial role in reforming the global financial system. Attention to best practices of financial regulations and corporate governance is applicable to all economies regardless of the level of economic development. A financial infrastructure that recognizes the differences between APEC's members will also generate more options for investment and trade.
New Growth Enterprises: SMEs and Micro-Businesses
There is an abundance of untapped entrepreneurial capacity in the APEC region. Reducing red tape to make it less complicated and less costly for small to medium businesses to trade across borders will make local economies stronger and create jobs. Extending resources for the creation of micro-businesses in both developed and developing economies strengthens the foundations for a broader distribution of income, enhanced economic stability and greater community development. In 2003, APEC will build upon the work initiated in the APEC 2002 Year.
Act on Development Pledge
The future prosperity of the APEC region depends on the dedication of APEC economies to set strategies and implement plans of action to meet regional and global pledges. It is crucial for economies to implement commitments made to the global economy through forums such as the WTO.
ECOTECH Priorities
Building on the APEC 2003 Year Theme and Sub-themes, Senior Officials endorsed the following short list of 4 Economic and Technical Cooperation or ECOTECH priorities over the next few years:
  • Integration into the Global Economy;
  • Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building;
  • Promoting the Development of Knowledge-Based Economies; and
  • Addressing the Social Dimension of Globalization.
This short list of ECOTECH priorities is meant to provide an up-to-date overall strategic focus and is not exclusive. This short list of ECOTECH priorities will also enable APEC to better communicate with its constituents and possibly form the basis of expanded cooperation with international financial institutions and the business sector.
HRD features in each and every one of these ECOTECH priorities and all eight priority areas of the HRDWG are consistent with their attainment. Allow me to repeat the eight priority areas:
  • Improving basic education;
  • Developing an appreciation of the value of lifelong learning;
  • Improving curricula, teaching methods and instructional materials to better prepare people for the 21st century;
  • Improving labour market information and analysis;
  • Enhancing skills in key sectors including SMEs;
  • Enhancing the quality, productivity, efficiency of the labour force and work places;
  • Enhancing the mobility of qualified persons; and
  • Strengthening cooperation to support trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation.
More specifically the Lead Shepherd of the HRDWG was requested by APEC Senior Officials to report on the HRDWG's work relating to workforce retraining in response to trade and investment liberalization in APEC. A brief status report was provided at the Second Senior Officials' Meeting. Perhaps, the 25th HRDWG can consider this request in greater depth.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The responsible Director (Programme) Joseph Doraisamy will report later on APEC developments at the APEC 2003 Year's midpoint.
Allow me to just make some general observations on the work of the HRDWG.
As the issue of HRD acquires increasing importance, I can foresee that there will be growing number of initiatives and cooperative activities by member economies in HRD and Human Capacity Building or HCB. As the responsible APEC forum working in this field, the HRDWG will have greater responsibility in implementing relevant cross-cutting taskings and projects in HRD and HCB, as well as providing advice.
It is therefore heartening to note that the HRDWG keeps pace with the changing global economic environment and develops quality responses to these changes. The ongoing emphasis on equipping students and the workforce with updated ICT skills and knowledge to enable them to adapt to the changing environment is crucial.
I must also mention that the HRDWG has also an admirable tradition of overseeing an impressive number of self-funded projects by APEC member economies. Such activities demonstrate a high measure of commitment on the part of member economies and a willingness to share resources and experiences with each other. As you already know, APEC has limited resources to fund projects and the efforts by economies to self-finance APEC projects are highly commendable.
The HRDWG looks set to further its important work this year and beyond. I assure you that the APEC Secretariat will continue to provide the highest level of support possible to ensure that the work of the HRDWG is further enhanced within the context of meeting APEC's objectives.
Finally, I wish you all the best for a successful conclusion of the 25th HRDWG meeting.
Thank you.