In 2008, the SOM-level Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) began exploring innovative ways to enhance capacity building activities in APEC as well as reviewed progress of the outstanding issues of the SCE fora review such as the implementation of the new guidelines and the independent assessment of working groups and taskforces.

Over the past year, a total of 77 APEC-funded ECOTECH projects were implemented by the SCE, APEC working groups, committees and taskforces.

The SCE's key achievements this year include the launch of an exercise to strengthen the Committee's policy guidance role, the development of strategies to step up APEC's cooperation with other multilateral organizations, as well as exploration of alternative tools for capacity building.

"Among the outstanding achievements, APEC managed to implement a more strategic direction to reinforce the role of the SCE policy guidance. It also developed strategies to improve cooperation with other international organizations" confirmed Luis Quesada, Peru's Senior Official.

"In this way, Peru was monitoring the data collection, analysis and evaluation to provide the Senior Officials with the necessary inputs for decision making on the future work of APEC fora including restructuring, disbanding or merging the existing bodies to mainstreaming their objectives."

As part of the process of independent fora review, SCE reviewed the independent assessments of the Marine Resource Conservation Working Group and the Gender Focal Point Network this year. These independent assessments offer an objective evaluation of the work of the various subfora and provide useful recommendations on whether and how to align their existing scope of work with APEC's broader objectives.

Guided by an earlier survey on the current state of cooperation between APEC and the multilateral organizations as well as strategic policy options to improve engagement with them, the SCE resolved to enhance APEC's collaboration with these organizations. The need to apply the lessons learned from cases of successful engagement, and the need to improve the "machinery" of the engagement through better program development, coordination and tasking is important. Our efforts this year will culminate in an SCE Policy Dialogue with Multilateral Organizations in early 2009 in Singapore.

This year, SCE also explored work placements and twinning arrangements as a way to enhance capacity building in APEC. Twinning is a process that pairs an individual, organization or network with other individuals, organizations or networks of similar function in order to transfer knowledge and build capacity. Specific twinning activities include staff exchange, short and long term placements, advice or consulting services, information sharing, study tours, mentoring, and training. Australia assisted with a great deal of legwork by developing a toolkit to guide economies' participation in such programs. The SCE invited its members to actively consider developing pilot twinning programs that can be launched in 2009. These programs present a versatile tool to facilitate capacity building within our region, not only as traditionally understood between a developed and developing economy, but also between two similar economies or within a network of more than two economies.

Finally, for APEC to develop more meaningful economic and technical capacity building projects that directly address the needs of member economies, we first need to figure out what the priorities are. The SCE's key role is to provide policy guidance on ways to contribute to APEC's ECOTECH goals. Singapore, as SCE Chair, put forward a paper in August to outline the current state of economic and technical cooperation (ECOTECH) activities within APEC. Areas of focus such as the development of a goal-oriented framework to guide ECOTECH activities, implementation of multi-year projects and leveraging on APEC's partnership with other multilateral organizations and private sector were proposed so that SCE could provide further strategic direction.

The SCE tasked its various subfora to conduct a detailed stock-take of their existing capacity building activities to provide a clearer picture of the gaps that need to be filled. This stock-take will serve as a basis for SCE to develop a forward-looking, longer-term work plan on capacity-building.

There is much scope to enhance the effectiveness of ECOTECH activities in APEC. Most importantly, capacity-building should be viewed from a long-term perspective. Broadening the traditional definition of projects from one-off workshops and seminars to encompassing multi-year projects will allow for more lasting and impactful outcomes.

As host of APEC 2008, Peru has placed an emphasis on capacity building for the region.

"It is widely accepted that economic and technical cooperation is one of the most important means to address the gap between developed and developing economies," said Mr. Quesada.

I want to take this opportunity to commend the hard work put in by all the various subfora as well as the APEC Secretariat and thank them for all the contributions they made to fulfilling APEC's ECOTECH objectives. I would also like to welcome Japan as the new Chair of the SCE in 2009 and wish them all the best for their work in the coming year.

Written by Mr. Mr. HO Meng Kit, Chair of the APEC SOM Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation, Singapore's Deputy APEC Senior Official and Deputy Secretary (Management) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.