October 18, 2013
Sustainable development, gender equality and educational parity were among key concerns youth delegates brought to the attention of world leaders and business titans gathered at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali earlier this month.
About 100 youth delegates from the 21 APEC member countries gathered for the APEC Voices of the Future (APEC VOF) Youth Forum 2013 October 3rd-7th, in Jimbaran, south Bali, not far from where the APEC summit was taking place in Nusa Dua.
The five-day youth summit included a dialogue with APEC leaders, a forum on sustainable development, skill-building exercises and cultural experiences.
"What we wish to achieve through APEC VOF is exposing youth leaders to high-level engagement and equipping them with the necessary skill-sets to make the best use of the opportunities for interaction with global leaders," said James Soh, co-chair of APEC VOF 2013.
The forum was attended by 99 students ranging in age from 16 to 25, selected based on their leadership achievements and accompanied by 19 educators and 12 advisors.
The youth delegates' activities including a community event at Bali's Green School, where they interacted with students and discussed ideas on how to address today's and tomorrow's challenges.
They also witnessed traditional painters at work in Kamasan, a village in the Klungkung Regency that produces a famed style of traditional Balinese painting, and got a chance to try creating a Kamasan-style painting themselves.
"Through the bonds forged between delegates from the different economies during APEC week, the APEC VOF delegates will grow to be connected leaders of tomorrow, who will be well-placed to co-operate to create a better world, much in line with the goals of APEC," Soh said.
Following a recommendation made by youth leaders at APEC VOF 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia, the youth delegates composed a declaration that was handed to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the opening ceremony of the APEC CEO Summit on October 6th.
"We believe that resilience, respect, empathy and trust are the guiding values to achieve sustainable development [and] youth involvement, and through these values we hope to achieve: co-operation and unity, equal opportunities and justice for all," the read.
It called for creation of an APEC Observatory for Environmental Monitoring to develop micro-energy capacity for rural communities, encourage strong law enforcement against environmental crimes, and reduce tariffs on products that promote sustainable consumption such as solar panels.
It also called for media campaigns to promote gender equality, the reduction of educational disparities among APEC economies, free movement of students among education systems and labor markets in APEC countries, and the creation of an APEC Youth Exchange Programme.
In an October 3rd speech to the youth delegates, Wishnu Wardhana, 2013 chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), urged them to embrace the opportunity to share their views directly with global business leaders and decision makers.
"When you come to the Summit and meet business leaders, and when you prepare your youth declaration, my advice is this: be bold – don't be intimidated. APEC is about the future. Your priorities and aspirations and your voices are as important as any," Wishnu said.
The global economy is facing some real challenges, he said. Economic growth has slowed and so has world trade.
"The world and APEC are today part of a big global village. We are all much more connected – our financial systems, our markets, and our people," Wishnu stressed. "We have benefited hugely from this over the last few decades. Your mobile phones, Facebook pages, and Twitter messages are all part of this revolution. But there are major challenges in managing the globalized world, and you have seen this with the current economic problems."
To put things back on track, he added, each economy has to do its own homework. But in today's world, that is not enough. "We have to work regionally and globally as well, to find satisfactory longer term solutions," he said.
"In APEC, we are heading in the right direction. And we have the drive, the vitality, the people and the resources to shape our future the way we want it," said Wishnu.
"We need to co-operate more and learn to trust each other more. The global village demands a lot from us. But if we do it right, the rewards for the generations ahead will be much greater than staying in a lonely village on our own," he said.