Rubbing shoulders with world leaders at APEC

Presenting at the Summit Opening ceremony of APEC Voices of the Future With fellow youth delegates

Written by Georgia Eccles

Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Development Studies student Georgia Eccles had the opportunity to put her global health and development knowledge to the test as a youth delegate at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Vietnam.

After finishing my final assessments for Semester Two, I hastily packed an assortment of business wear into my suitcase and jumped on a plane to Vietnam.

Little did I know, I was flying straight into Typhoon Damrey. Was it a turbulent trip? Yes! Did the pilot need several attempts at landing? You bet.

Nevertheless, I was excited to represent Australia as a youth delegate at the 2017 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit.

Established in 1989, APEC is a regional economic forum. During the Summit, political leaders from twenty-one member economies as well as CEOs from across the globe meet to negotiate greater economic prosperity for the people of the Asia-Pacific region.

The forum aims to promote the importance of sustainable, inclusive and innovate economic growth. The theme for APEC 2017 was ‘Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future.’

I wouldn’t blame you if, by this point, you’re wondering how a university student could possibly contribute.

Well, each year, APEC Voices of the Future (VoF) runs an affiliated parallel summit for youth. This year, youth representatives from each APEC member economy met and discussed issues on the 2017 APEC agenda prior to the arrival of the political leaders.

After a day of discussion as well as a presentation by former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, myself and twenty other youth delegates drafted The Youth Declaration.

This Declaration provided the youth perspective on the APEC agenda and was presented to each political leader upon their arrival in Da Nang. This year’s Declaration emphasised that educating youth, minority groups as well as communities in remote areas about financial literacy is pivotal to inclusive economic growth.

Following the VoF Forum, we were provided access to attend the CEO Summit. We travelled from Hoi An to Da Nang each morning on our own APEC-registered buses and attended panels titled, The Future of Work, The New Job Creators and Connecting for Growth.

The hot topic of the conference was how Artificial Intelligence was going to shape future employment opportunities and how APEC economies need to equip young people for this change.

Although I haven’t studied economics at university, I found it all highly relevant to my degree.

The Global CEO of Johnson & Johnson spoke readily of the importance of preventative health education to lessen GDP expenditure on healthcare.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised that the economy of New Zealand no longer saw their environmental agenda and economic development agenda as distinct.  

My own personal highlight was meeting the most remarkable youth delegates from all member economies. Whether it was exploring Hoi An at night with the delegates from Australia, navigating evening functions with the delegates from Mexico and the United States or just having a lovely chat with my friends from Canada, the atmosphere of excitement and friendly banter propelled us all through a very eventful and unforgettable fortnight.