Preparing for Emergencies through Public-Private Partnerships

Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 24 April 2008
  • Remarks by Ambassador Juan Carlos Capuñay, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Let me take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and the Asia and Pacific Office of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction of the United Nations for inviting me to address the Task Force for Emergency Preparedness meeting. I was fortunate to be part of the team of Senior Officials who called for the APEC Strategy on Response to and Preparedness for Natural Disasters and Emergencies in 2004 when I was Chair of APEC's Senior Officials' Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation.
At the time, we agreed then that APEC should bring to bear its strengths in broad regional cooperation and its ability to engage the private sector and international institutions in policy-making in order to better prepare the region for emergencies and natural disasters.
In recognizing the risks and challenges to people and economies, Leaders agreed in 2007 on the need to "further strengthen APEC's efforts to build community resilience and preparedness for emergencies and natural disasters."
Over the last few years APEC economies have faced several significant shocks.  Threats to human security have affected both travel and trade. At the same time, health problems and natural disasters including tsunamis and hurricanes have had regional impacts.
But in spite of these adverse factors, APEC's regional economy is quite robust and is capable of bouncing back even following quite significant challenges.
Peru's priorities are APEC's priorities. In addition to pursuing its traditional objectives, Peru has placed emphasis on addressing the social dimensions of the APEC agenda. This year's theme, "A New Commitment to Asia-Pacific Development" represents how sustainable development can be achieved through partnerships between government, international institutions and the private sector.
Engaging the private sector to develop these partnerships is a key priority for APEC in 2008. In addition to increasing cooperation with business, APEC also emphasizes the importance of forming links with international organizations and specialist regional bodies, as long as value is added to the process.
In all sectors, APEC is building stronger relationships between member economies and the business community. This is providing business with the ability to actively participate with input to the process of developing government policy development.
APEC values this input since small and medium-sized enterprises represent 80 percent of the regional industrial infrastructure and employs 60 percent of the Asia-Pacific population yet only account for 30-35 percent of intra-regional exports. Were a disruption in business to occur as a result of an outbreak, the regional economy could come to a stand-still. One of APEC's core activities includes assisting developing economies and their SMEs to compete more effectively in an increasingly globalized world.
Because the private sector has a large stake in effectively preparing for and responding to natural disasters, we believed that APEC could use its position to formalize a lasting partnership with that sector.
There are plenty of examples from which to choose. The cooperation with APEC's Counter-Terrorism Task Force develops recommendations in cooperation with the private sector for Leaders' consideration. The High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology provides a platform for government officials and the business community to address a potentially contentious issue in a non-threatening environment.
With respect to cooperation with international institutions, I would like to highlight the contribution of the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Just as APEC focuses on awareness-raising activities in disaster risk reduction, advocacy through policy formulation, the dissemination of guidelines, and promoting the establishment of unilateral platforms for disaster risk reduction. The ISDR also places an emphasis on enhancing networking and partnership-building to contribute to an effective culture of safety and protection of all communities in the Asia and Pacific Islands region.
Working together allows APEC to build on its core strength while avoiding replication of activities that are already being carried out by other institutions.
Already, APEC has a broad mechanism for building these comprehensive relationships. Whether seeking input on the private sector's needs or on ways it can cooperate, APEC covers a multitude of sectors and bring broad experience to the table. Dependent on global supply chains, private sector operations are no longer protected by borders. Should a disaster occur in one economy, a company's profits could be impacted as a result. Listening to what support business needs in the face of regional disasters will put you in a better position to respond to their needs.
Regional business health is highly vulnerable to the economic damage caused by natural disasters. Terrorism has the same devastating effect and APEC has chosen to engage the private sector to address the issue.
Businesses in the region have a wealth of operational knowledge that has to be taken into account when protecting regional trade. Through its annual STAR (Secure Trade in the APEC Region) Conference, APEC provides an open forum for business to provide input to regional security.
Covering areas such as aviation security, maritime security, the safe movement of passengers and terrorist financing, STAR Conferences have produced recommendations that have been adopted by APEC Leaders and Ministers. Bringing together representatives of economies, including law enforcement agencies, with representatives of businesses from around the region, these recommendations have not only improved security but have also resulted in commercial efficiency gains as businesses increase their use of high-technology security practices.
It is important to mention that in order to formalize its relationship with the business community, the High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology established a Private Sector Day to learn about their concerns over the development and implementation of national regulatory frameworks; the impacts of climate change on agriculture; development of new varieties specific to economy needs and public perception of agricultural biotech in APEC economies.
In this respect, just this past February in Lima representatives of agricultural business, the public sector and academia gathered together, under the theme of "The Benefits of Adopting Modern Agricultural Biotechnology," to learn more about the recent studies and developments underway in the biotech industry and the agricultural sector, throughout the Asia Pacific region.
In closing, there are several key messages for you to keep in mind during your discussions this week.
First, solutions are better found through cooperation. A multilateral approach widens the net for cooperation and quick resolution to regional challenges.
Second, APEC's guiding principles have created a forum that encourages, not only participation from the private sector, but the development of lasting public-private partnerships.
And third, building strong relationships with the private sector and regional bodies will help to prepare the Asia-Pacific region for unforeseen disasters and mitigate the impacts to the economy.
I encourage your active participation in the formation of these relationships.