High Level Meeting on Sustainable Development

Santiago de Chile, Chile, 20 July 2006
  • Speech by Ambassador Tran Trong Toan, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Your Excellency Ambassador Alberto Van Klaveren,
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Chile,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great honour to be present here at the High Level Meeting on Sustainable Development. On behalf of the APEC Secretariat, I would like to express our warm appreciation and congratulations to the Government of the Republic of Chile for organizing this very important meeting.
Sustainable Development - An Imperative
Sustainable development has, over the past two decades, become a central issue, attracting the world community's great attention and resources. Faced with the dilemma between the need to maintain rapid economic growth, which may run the risk of destroying the environment and ecological systems, and the necessity to safeguard natural resources and life conditions for the future generations, the UN Conference on Environment and Development, as early as in 1992, adopted the concept of sustainable development. The Plan of Action "Agenda 21" and the UN Millennium Declaration have served as basic principles for promoting and implementing sustainable development. Since then, ensuring the sustainability of development has become an imperative need and guiding pattern to our development process.
However, sustainable development contains in itself not only economic and environmental concerns. Its definition has been broadened further to include the social dimension of the development process. In today's globalized world, sustainable development consists of, and is assessed through the three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. The question is whether our development is sustainable economically, socially and environmentally? Can we ensure sustainable development when we try to maintain high economic growth without affordable and secure supplies of energy, other material resources and fair trade? Can we ensure sustainable development when the development gaps tend to be widening among countries and within a country? Can we ensure sustainable development when, due to the need to accelerate economic growth and increase income, we are carelessly exhausting natural resources and increasingly polluting our habitat? What do we have to do in order to ensure that sustainable development ideas and efforts are efficiently and effectively incorporated into our development plans and strategies?
It is widely recognized that the three dimensions of sustainable development, i.e. economic, social and environmental, are closely related, interdependent and mutually enforcing. Violation of this interrelationship or negligence of any of these aspects could cause detrimental effects to sustainable development. That is why the issue of sustainable development must be dealt with in a comprehensive, integrated and balanced way. It is also very widely recognized that the social dimension should be put at the centre of attention due to its overwhelming importance as it directly concerns the people as both a motivator and objective of development. However, focusing attention and efforts on social development must not adversely affect efforts to promote economic development and environmental protection. Doing otherwise would lead to far-reaching and unrepairable implications.
APEC and Sustainable Development: from Vision to Action
From the early days, sustainable development has been a matter of great concern for APEC. The APEC Leaders' Economic Vision Statement in 1993 stated: "Our environment is improved as we protect the quality of our air, water and green spaces and manage our energy resources and renewable resources to ensure sustainable growth and provide a more secure future for our people". This Statement provides the mandate for APEC's work on sustainable development.
Over the years, APEC has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable development in both political will and practical action. As a reminder, in March 1994 Ministers adopted an Environmental Vision Statement and a Framework of Principles for Integrating Economy and Development in APEC. Then in 1995, the APEC Economic Leaders' Declaration for Action reaffirmed the integration of the environment and sustainable development into APEC activities. The 1996 Manila Declaration of Ministers Responsible for Environment sketched out priority issues concerning sustainable development such as promotion of public-private partnership, local empowerment, sustainable cities and sustainable marine environment. In 1997 APEC Economic Leaders stated categorically that "Achieving sustainable development is at the heart of APEC's mandate". In 2004, APEC further enhanced its commitments to pursuing sustainable development with Declaration of the Tourism Ministerial Meeting, Joint Statement of the Mining Ministerial Meeting, and the Science and Technology Ministerial Meeting.
In fact, the concerns and efforts to promote sustainable development in APEC have been embodied in numerous activities and cooperation programs. Sustainable development motivation is placed at the centre of the Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) agenda. The ECOTECH mandate states: "APEC economies will pursue economic and technical co-operation in order to attain sustainable growth and equitable development in the Asia-Pacific region". The ECOTECH agenda includes initiatives for promoting and ensuring sustainable development through cooperative schemes, joint research and training, sharing information and experiences, and the proliferation of best practices. Hundreds of ECOTECH projects and activities aimed at building and strengthening the development capacity of member economies have been undertaken by APEC working groups and fora. Last year alone, 135 such projects and activities were successfully and effectively implemented.
APEC's efforts have focused on all of the three components of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. With respect to the economic aspect, APEC cooperation aims to achieve growth and development through trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and by ensuring a secure and favorable business environment. As for the social aspect, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is designed to help improve people's living standards, reduce socio-economic disparities among and within APEC member economies through maintaining sustainable growth, capacity building, equitable opportunities and shared development. In relation to the environmental aspect, APEC cooperation promotes the effective conservation, management and optimal utilization of natural (including marine) resources, and environment protection. This is in full conformity with APEC's mandate that: "Recognizing [our] shared responsibility for sustainable development, APEC economies will integrate environmental considerations in all relevant APEC activities".
Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity
In the APEC Viet Nam year 2006, with a view to advocating sustainable development as a mean to achieve prosperity in the APEC region, Viet Nam and other member economies have promoted the theme "Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity". The theme recognizes the necessity to build the APEC region into a dynamic community that will be highly relevant, useful and responsive to the needs of the people in the fast-changing international environment. The theme also emphasizes the necessity to ensure sustainable development as a way to achieve prosperity, which is long lasting and widely shared by both developed and developing member economies. In other words, this is to ensure that the APEC process is "human-oriented" and responsive to the UN Millennium Development Goal.
Addressing the sustainable development objective embodied in this theme, APEC member economies have stepped up their efforts on a broad range of issues and areas such as enhancing trade and investment through the implementation of the Busan Business Agenda, the promotion of the Doha Development Agenda; strengthening ECOTECH cooperation for gap bridging and sustainable development, enhancing competitiveness of small and medium enterprises; promoting integration capacity through human resource development, information technology cooperation and partnership for development; enhancing human security, including counter-terrorism, health security, disaster preparedness and energy security; promoting anti-corruption and transparency; and strengthening linkages among member economies through tourism and cultural exchange.
The APEC Viet Nam year 2006 is already half way through it schedule of events and what has been accomplished is encouraging. Much work has been done in those areas contributing to ensuring sustainable development in APEC:
  • Public-private dialogue on trade facilitation; symposiums on private sector development and strengthening anti-corruption and transparency to facilitate the development of SMEs;
  • MRT statement supporting the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations;
  • Endorsement of the framework for the Action Plan to implement Busan Roadmap with particular stress on capacity building;
  • Endorsement of APEC Action Plan on prevention and response to avian and influenza pandemics; work on energy security and total supply chain security;
  • Research on socio-economic disparities and cooperation to bridge economic and digital divide;
All this has long term effect and is highly conducive to achieving sustainable development objectives.
High Level Meeting on Sustainable Development 2006
Over the past years, APEC has undertaken significant work to promote sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. Nevertheless, a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure that sustainable development becomes an inevitable and indispensable pattern of development and thus be incorporated in all APEC activities.
In fairness, it must be observed that despite the inclusion of sustainable development ideas in APEC's work in a general sense, there have been significant limitations in implementing them. For instance, no concrete strategic approach has been developed and no ministerial meeting on this issue has taken place in APEC since 1996. Sustainable development is a multi-dimensional, cross-cutting, inter-disciplinary and even trans-boundary (especially environmental) issue. However, our work in this area, in some cases, seem to be rather fragmented, interrupted, and lacking effective coordination among fora, stakeholders and international cooperation.
In view of such a situation, I warmly welcome and appreciate the great efforts exerted by the Government of Chile to reinvigorate the issue and call for increased action to promote sustainable development in APEC. This is highly meaningful and supportive to the theme of APEC Viet Nam year 2006 with its emphasis on sustainable development as a means to achieve prosperity.
I would like to welcome all the delegates from governments, industry, academia and the business sector, who have traveled a long way here to take part in this high level meeting.
Participation by other international organizations in APEC's work provides us with a broader view and a shared wealth of experience to better tackle the issues facing us. I would like to particularly thank the representatives and experts from international organizations. Your participation in this meeting and in APEC's work presents strong encouragement for us to more vigorously pursue the promotion of sustainable development in APEC.
I observe that the work program of our Meeting has been constructed by the organizers in a very impressive way. I firmly believe that in the next two days of active exchange of information, experiences and discussions, we will be able to make an overall assessment and analysis of the work in APEC on sustainable development, and to come up with valuable suggestions and recommendations to improve APEC cooperation in this area.
Finally, I would once again like to sincerely thank the Government of Chile for taking leadership in this important mission and for the hospitality rendered to all of us here in this beautiful city of Santiago de Chile.
I wish the Meeting great success.
Thank you.