Date: 5 – 11 November 2017
By: Livia Chng (Youth Delegate (Singapore) APEC Voices of the Future 2017)
Reflecting on an engaging week as one of the five youth delegates representing Singapore at the 2017 APEC Voices of the Future (VOF) in Da Nang, Viet Nam from 5-11 November.
We began our week with the VOF Youth Forum at Da Nang University where we discussed and presented the topic of “Promoting sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth amongst the youth in the Asia Pacific region”. It was insightful to hear the perspectives and case examples from fellow youth delegates from 17 Member Economies. Each Economy nominated a Drafter and we worked together into the night in discussions toward the APEC VOF Youth Declaration which outlines the aspirations of youth to advocate inclusiveness and to generate opportunities for innovation, startups and education.
Though our host country Viet Nam was hit by deadly Typhoon Damrey, we were welcomed with great hospitality and warmth. We visited Hòa Bình Peace Village, bringing with us local tokens and performed song and dance. As the founder of social initiative, Refresh Flowers SG, together with our Singapore delegation team we shared the techniques of folding ribbon flowers to our fellow delegates and folded 80 ribbon flowers which were distributed to the children and orphans who suffered from the effects of Agent Orange, an herbicide used as part of an herbicidal warfare programme during the Vietnam War. We also experienced the beautiful culture of Viet Nam, visited the art murals at Tan Thanh Mural Village and learnt to make traditional lanterns.
In the latter part of the week, we were privileged to attend the APEC CEO Summit where policy makers, government leaders and the business community gathered in dialogue on pertinent issues around globalisation, future of jobs, and strengthening cooperation for a shared future. In summary, my three personal takeaways are:
- Our success is no longer singular: Integrating APEC has brought prosperity, accounting for over 60 percent of global trade and the world’s GDP. This will continue to grow but it will not come easy. The Summit gave me a glimpse into the complexities of negotiating for free and open trade in light of changing economic, political and strategic priorities. We heard global leaders deliver their addresses at the APEC CEO Summit, among which were two differing visions – Trump engaging in fair and reciprocal trade in Indo-Pacific that would put ‘America First’; and Xi championing the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and regional partnerships – “开放带来进步，封闭必然落后。“ (Openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one behind.)
2. We will continue to adapt to consequences of globalisation and disruption as technology becomes ubiquitous: In drafting our Youth Declaration, we discussed how technology could advance financial inclusion and human capital development, paving the way for social inclusion. It was thought-provoking to hear about empowerment among women and youth in MSMEs, entrepreneurial innovation, and micro-financing.
3. Youths need to be future ready: In our dialogue with Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he shared his experiences across multilateral engagements, setting the context of Singapore amidst uncertainty and geopolitical tensions. I benefited from his insights and openness as we spoke about Singapore’s future and our adaptability as a skilled workforce in tackling emerging challenges. Living in an interconnected world is our reality and he urged youths to stay relevant and actively engaged in building our communities.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to interact with business leaders, form new friendships with many youth delegates and to contribute together on promoting an inclusive and sustainable growth agenda in Asia Pacific.