Honorable Deputy Minister Choi Byung Hoon,
Dr. Mohd Nasir Mohd Ashraf,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I begin my address, I would like to convey to you the greetings of Ambassador Mario Artaza, the Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. Due to prior engagements Ambassador Artaza is unable to be present at this meeting.
On behalf of the APEC Secretariat, may I extend my deepest appreciation to Dr. Mohd Nasir, the Lead Shepherd of the Human Resources Development Working Group and its members, for their invitation to address this meeting. My appreciation also goes to our host, the Republic of Korea, for your warm hospitality and excellent arrangements. This augurs well for Korea, because Korea prepares to host a number of events for the 2005 APEC Year.
The APEC forum, since its inception in 1989, has held a strong commitment to building a stable, prosperous and secure community in the Asia Pacific region. This requires more than just a focus on economic and trade issues, but includes attention to the broader human resource development issues that are essential for a progressive regional economy.
As such, our 21 Member Economies have pursued the goals of strengthening Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation alongside Economic and Technical Cooperation, or ECOTECH, activities. It is widely accepted that economic and technical cooperation for skills level improvement is essential to achieve sustainable growth.
In recent years, globalization has opened new opportunities and, at the same time, introduced significant challenges both for the entire APEC process and for developing human resources in the region. This HRD Working Group meeting in Jeju is anticipated to take stock of what has been achieved so far, and to provide future direction for human resources development activities within the APEC process.
This work is in accordance with the common desire of APEC Leaders, Ministers and other stakeholders to build a strong and resilient regional economy through the collaborative efforts of our Members. In this regard, it is quite relevant that Chile adopted 'One Community, Our Future' as main APEC theme. This main theme is further supported by several sub-themes with particular emphasis on the human resources development.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Human resource development is multifaceted and covers cross-cutting issues relating to the activities of many APEC fora. Over the years the HRD Working Group has developed eight priority areas which are broadly categorized in the three clusters of Human Capacity Building, Education and Labor and Social Protection.
Human Capacity Building is at the core of these priorities which is also reflected in the work programs of other APEC fora. This poses challenges for effective coordination among the various APEC fora in order to avoid duplicating efforts and to achieve cost-effective results. The SOM Committee on ECOTECH agreed at its meeting in February 2003 in Chiang Rai, Thailand, to establish a shortlist of four priorities for ECOTECH activities. These areas are Integration into the Global Economy, Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building, Promoting the Development of Knowledge-Based Economies and Addressing the Social Dimension of Globalization.
This shortlist of APEC-wide priorities is meant to provide an overall strategic focus and a roadmap for the future APEC ECOTECH agenda. It is also expected to enable APEC to better communicate with its constituents and attract additional support from external organizations and the private sector.
Across many other APEC fora, initiatives have been created to generate ideas on improving regional human capacity in the face of globalization and the new economy.
The Human Capacity Building Initiative was endorsed by APEC Economic Leaders in November 2000. This Initiative is intended to develop a more focused and integrated approach to Human Capacity Building efforts involving all relevant stakeholders in APEC.
The Beijing Initiative in May 2001 also set a useful foundation for enhanced APEC human capacity building work through a tripartite model of cooperation involving the government, business and education sectors. This provided a strategic plan to ensure more cohesive, comprehensive and mutually complementary human capacity building efforts across all sectors.
I would like to draw your attention to the developments in other APEC fora in the year 2004 which are directly related to regional human capacity building.
Last month in Bangkok, the 2nd International Meeting of Experts on Social Safety Nets was held. It was quite a useful forum attended by high-level stakeholders sharing their experiences on social safety and workforce retraining issues. Dialogue at the meeting also included issues relating to the integration of vocational and unemployment services, to the quality and level of training, and the use modern information and communications technology in retraining programs.
At a ministerial level, two meetings of APEC Ministers have taken place in the 2004 APEC Year. These were the Science Ministers' and Education Ministers' Meetings, both of which covered a number of issues relating the strengthening of regional human resources capacity.
At the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation held in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, attention was drawn to the apparent shortfall in science and technology skills in the global economy. Ministers called for research to identify causes and seek solutions to this shortfall.
In their Joint Communiqué, Ministers stated that "evidence suggests that most economies face difficulties in training and retraining people with the needed science and technology skills." Ministers then called on the "APEC Industrial Science and Technology Working Group and other APEC working groups including the HRD Working Group to work together and consider ways to promote further research on the supply and demand of needed science and technology skills within APEC economies."
At the 3rd APEC Education Ministerial Meeting that was held in Santiago, Chile, last month, Ministers made a number of recommendations with direct relevance to enhancing the region's human resource capacity.
These include a request by Ministers for the APEC Education Network to work with other relevant APEC Fora "to develop a Strategic Plan for English and Other Languages in the APEC Region." Ministers noted the importance of learning of English and other foreign languages as essential for students, workers, small business entrepreneurs, women and disadvantaged groups, to enable them to interact successfully in a globalized world.
Education Ministers also called for the creation of an online professional development network enhance teachers' knowledge of mathematics and science. This is anticipated to enable teachers in industrialized economies to share teaching knowledge with teachers in developing economies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The HRD Working Group certainly takes in a wide-ranging agenda and broad work scope. As the importance of these issues continues to grow, it is logical that there will be a growing number of APEC initiatives in the areas of human resource development and capacity building.
If we are serious to deal with change brought about by globalization, it would be crucial to develop programs relating to lifelong education, and the ongoing emphasis on equipping students and building a workforce with updated skills and knowledge. I am sure that competitive advantage in the changing world will come from increased knowledge based skills incorporating information and communications technology into education programs and workplace practices.
From APEC's perspective, the increasing range of our activities already places significant pressure on our shallow financial resources base. In this regard, I wish to ask member economies for greater cooperation between the government, private sector and academia to seek all potential avenues for adequate funding and cost-effective projects.
In conclusion, the APEC Secretariat will continue to give its fullest support and cooperation to the HRD Working Group. Notwithstanding limited resources, we will make our best effort to ensure that programs and projects undertaken by the HRD Working Group are cost-effective and beneficial to the APEC community. I wish you all the best in your deliberations, and for a successful conclusion of the 26th HRDWG Meeting.
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