The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recognizes that women are critical to the achievement of sustainable economic development in the region. In 1998, it held its First Ministerial Meeting on Women in the Philippines that resulted to the adoption of the "Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC" within APEC groups. An Ad-Hoc Advisory Group on Gender Integration (AGGI) was created to oversee the implementation of the Framework but its mandate expired in 2002 which then led to the establishment of the Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN) that is aimed at maintaining awareness on gender issues within the Cooperation.
The Philippines, one of the Cooperation’s founding members, also works for accelerating the progress of integrating women in the mainstream of its APEC processes and activities.
What is APEC?
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is composed of 21 member economies working on three key areas namely: trade and investment liberalization, business facilitation and economic and technical cooperation. The Philippines was among the 12 founding members of the Cooperation established in November 1989.
APEC is the sole inter governmental grouping in the world that has no treaty obligations required of its participants. It operates on the basis of non-binding commitments, open dialogue and equal respect for the views of all its members. Within APEC, all decisions are reached by consensus and commitments that are undertaken on a voluntary basis by its participants.
Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC
The Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC addresses APEC Leaders’ recognition that gender is a cross-cutting theme in the Cooperation. The Framework serves as a practical and systematic approach to guide APEC in the achievement of the integration of women in the mainstream of APEC processes and activities.
The APEC Ministerial Meeting on Women in 1998 identified three inter-related elements, and an Implementation Strategy, that are essential to reinforce the important role of women in economic development. These inter-related elements are:
- Gender Analysis - a methodology for examining the differences in women’s and men’s lives;
- Collection and Use of Sex-disaggregated Data – data classified by sex and presented separately for women and men; and
- Involvement of Women in APEC – the increased participation of women in APEC fora.
APEC Groups on Women
In its website for women (http://www.women.apec.org/), the Cooperation recognized its four groups focused on working for women namely:
- Women Leaders Network (WLN)
- Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN)
·Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) ·Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Ministerial (2010)
Women Leaders Network (WLN)
The APEC’s Women Leaders Network (WLN) is an informal, dynamic network which brings together women leaders from all sectors of the society to provide policy recommendations to APEC officials. The WLN which was founded in Manila in 1996 is not an official part of APEC but has been successful in holding policy sessions with APEC annually since its inception. Some of its major accomplishments as a result of its recommendations are the following:
- First two Ministerial Meetings for Women,
- Creation of the APEC Gender Focal Point Network and the
- Recognition of the ‘unique contribution of indigenous women’ to the economy by the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in 1999
Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN)
The Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN) is mandated to implement the “Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC" since 2002. The GFPN also provides a mechanism to integrate gender considerations into APEC activities as well as policy advice on gender issues. It supports and moves for gender equality where relevant to the APEC process.
Specifically, the GFPN:
- assists APEC groups to identify and address gender issues within their work;
- promotes and report on women's representation across APEC and within individual groups;
- assesses and reports on the use of gender criteria in project proposals;
- collects and shares good practices in gender integration among APEC groups;
- supports the implementation of gender integration within individual groups and across APEC economies;
- facilitates the provision of gender expert advice;
- assists in developing project proposals; and
- proposes recommendations on advancing gender integration in APEC.
The GFPN is composed of focal points that represent APEC economies and groups. Its advisory bodies are the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Women Leader's Network (WLN).
Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG)
The Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) aims to assist SMEs improve their competitiveness and to facilitate a more open trade and investment environment. It also moves to encourage the development of SMEs and to build their capacity to engage in International trade.
The SMEWG provides the foundation for other APEC groups to incorporate SME considerations into their mandates and activities. The Working Group works in coordination with related organizations including APEC's Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN), the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the Women's Leaders Network (WLN), and the Economic Committee (EC). A meeting of Ministers in charge of the SMEs has been conducted annually since 1994.
Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SME) Ministerial (2010)
For 2010, the Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group’s (SMEWG) symposium strategy is “Strategy for Reinvigorating Economic Growth with Dual Engine: SME and Asia-Pacific.” The undertaking will bring together ministers; academic scholars with cutting-edge knowledge from various and entrepreneurs who have successfully internationalized their business activities to discuss economic growth and SMEs in the Asia-Pacific region.
Major points of discussion for the symposium will be on post-crisis growth strategies and start-ups/new businesses, effects of international business activities such as trade, investment, and labor mobility on SMEs and strengthening the institutional basis for facilitating international business activities and economic cooperation.