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VOICES 2017: Text

This year’s APEC Voices programme included a range of memorable events from meeting New Zealand's new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to hearing world leaders speak at the CEO Summit.

VOICES 2017: Image


Between the 5 - 11 November 2017, 115 youth delegates and educators from 17 APEC member economies travelled to Da Nang,
Vietnam to attend APEC Voices of the Future 2017. This year’s programme was highlighted with a range of memorable events

  • Experiencing Vietnam, its fascinating culture and tourist spots like Hoi An Ancient Town.

  • Attending the APEC Voices of the Future Youth Forum at Da Nang University.

  • Attending the APEC CEO Summit and hearing from political and business leaders.

  • Attending Breakfast with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand delegation.

Excerpt from the New Zealand youth delegation speech:

“Creating new dynamism and fostering a shared future is key to New Zealand and its youth. This is underpinned by profit -growth amongst businesses, especially SMEs, planet - the importance of protecting the environment for future generation and people - through the changing cultural landscape of New Zealand and growth in diversity of human capital.

"As young leaders we are empowered to take ownership of the future. This relates to the Maori value of Kotahitanga - Through being united as one, we are even further empowered to create a sustainable future and achieve greater outcomes for our people, economy and the environment.”

APEC Voices of the Future youth forum

The 2017 APEC Voices of the Future forum was hosted at Da Nang University on the 6th November. This was Day 2 of the APEC Voices Programme and was when most of the formalities took place. The day was packed full of keynote speakers, interesting presentations and meaningful exchanges. The atmosphere was vibrant and bustling, along with presence of the media who took advantage of all the action as everything unfolded.

The proceedings began with the Opening Ceremony led by Vietnam- the host economy, and consisted of speeches by Mr James Soh (Co-Chair, APEC Voices Leadership Council), H.E. Mr Le Quoc Phong (First Secretary of Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union) and H.E. Mr Huynh Duc Tho (Chairman of the People’s Committee of Da Nang).

Keynote presentations

The keynote speakers at the Youth Forum included Dr Noeleen Heyzer (UN Under-Secretary-General Executive Secretary from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Dr Dinglong Huang (Cofounder and CEO of Malong Technologies).

Excerpt from Dr Noeleen Heyzer’s speech:

“CLIMATE CHANGE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST GLOBAL DANGERS IN WHICH WE FACE AND CAN PREVENT. The impact of Climate Change will impact the ability of all countries to be SUSTAINABLE. Addressing the issues around Climate change will require a paradigm shift. It requires us to embrace dynamism, establishing a new set of shared principles and values to guide behaviour and lifestyle choices. We can choose to be independent of politics and focus on intensifying our individual efforts to heal the environment.

"In terms of the key steps we need to take to address existing economic and social issues, we will fundamentally need to understand the UN’s 17 SDG’s. There needs to an integrated approach to how we resolve issues. Humankind can no longer plan to grow and tidy up later. There needs to a shift of behavioural patterns through inclusive sustainable development agenda other than Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR does not work!"

Dr Huang attended APEC Voices of the Future 2016 in Lima, Peru as a delegate. This year he was invited to return as a keynote speaker at the Youth Forum, as well as a panellist at the APEC CEO Summit. While recognising the success of his professional
development within the period of just one year, Dr Huang’s presence served as a motivation and inspiration for all of the 2017Voices delegates. In his presentation, he spoke of how important it was to embrace the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology within the Digital Age. He talked about AI as a way of teaching technology to act as humans, in order to improve efficiency and productivity across areas not limited to packaging, crop management and pest control.

Dr Huang predicts that AI will spark another form of economic growth and be able to inject 30 million into the economy within 12 years time. While many fear the socio-economic impacts of AI like widespread job displacement and potential economic recessions, Dr Huang left us with the message about why it is important to immediately embrace the opportunities that come with AI. Despite inevitable challenges, he highlighted how first and foremost, taking advantage of AI would be the first step in allowing us to change the future.

Plenary session

Each of the 17 APEC economies had the opportunity to present their position on the topic of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future.” This mindmap captures the ideas communicated by the youth delegates during the plenary session.

Youth declaration

The Youth Declaration was drafted by the representatives of each APEC economy on the evening of the 6th November. This was drafted after group discussions on the topics of Youth’s contribution to the APEC Vision toward 2020 and beyond, Economic,
Financial and Social Inclusion, Human Resources Development in the Digital Age and Start-ups, Innovation and MSME’s support policy. The following are extracts from the 2017 Youth Declaration.

“In terms of contribution, we recognise that our economic and financial impact are from proposals of policies and modes of education for our generation. We believe that VoF delegates will diminish the disparities between economies, accelerate communication, decrease the cost for new start-ups, and generate more opportunities for young people through a communication platform. We propose that Educators facilitate an online platform through which past delegates can mentor
and support future delegates as well as a database in which previous declarations, proposals, and feedback can be accessed.

We, the Voices of the Future, through these four agenda items, affirm that educational advancement and equality is essential for sustainable economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. From our generation to your generation, let us work together to create a new dynamism and foster a brighter, shared future.”

Cultural Day

The next day was dedicated to exploring Vietnam: getting to know the people and being immersed within the heart of Vietnamese culture and society. We initially visited Quang Nam Peace Village, a centre that provides nursing and rehabilitation support to over 100 orphans, as well as wounded and disabled children. On our way, we travelled past hundreds of flooded homes and riverbanks. We were confronted with the reality of the scale and widespread effects of Typhoon Damrey. Despite it being a devastating sight, it allowed us to admire the resilience of the Vietnamese people.

Upon our arrival to the village, we were greeted with a formal ceremony from the representatives and treated to a cultural performance from the children themselves. As a way of showing appreciation, the youth delegates presented over 100 gifts to the children and initiated our own cultural performance. It was a very humbling experience and reminded us of the importance of caring for our more vulnerable communities.

The next stop was the Tam Thanh Mural Village, where we were treated with a guided tour of hundreds of murals scattered throughout the village. These murals showcased the daily lives of the fishing village and created a lively, colourful landscape. The Mural Village were created as a cultural exchange project between Vietnam and Korea, where the murals were painted by Korean artists to. As a result, this has positioned the village as a destination for tourists and portrays the potential benefits of intercultural collaboration between APEC economies.

To end the day, we were treated to a lantern making workshop back in the heart of Hoi An’s Ancient Town. Overall it was a brilliant day jam packed full of great experiences and whakawhanaungatanga (building relationships through shared experiences) with the other youth delegates.


The opportunity to listen to the thoughts of leaders in both politics and business on some of the key issues facing the modern world was one of the most valuable aspects of the APEC Voices of the Future programme. The summit consisted of panel discussions, with some keynote speakers that focussed on topics like the Future of Globalisation. The main keynote addresses came from President Rodrigo Duterte, President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping.

The rise of technology and its effect on the Future of Work was a key recurring theme at the CEO Summit. Rapid changes in the future job market due to automation and AI are expected and is something people, particularly youth who are just starting their careers, need to be aware of. The Future of Globalisation was another key talking point. Various panels seemed to be in general agreement to the benefits of globalisation such as free trade and fostering closer international relationships. The President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, was a particularly strong proponent of the benefits of free trade to his country, suggesting free trade has been made a scapegoat for social problems around the globe and governments need to focus more on resolving social issues rather than simply blame free trade and globalisation. However, many panelists acknowledged there are issues with globalisation that need to be addressed. A rising “anti-globalist” sentiment from the “average person” who is feeling disconnected and disadvantaged, structural inequality, and geo-political instability present problems going forward to globalisation and will not be addressed by the current status quo. As youth, hearing these messages as to the current political and economic position and projection for the future was a valuable experience.

Our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke passionately about the importance of protecting the environment and fostering a sustainable future. The contrast in message and tone between the speeches of arguably the two most powerful political leaders in the world, President Trump and President Xi was another highlight. Trump's message of looking out for your home country above all else and fiery rhetoric about perceived past transgressions against the US, was juxtaposed against Xi message of looking to the future for growth and development of not just China, but the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. On the whole, attending the CEO conference was an eye-opening and memorable experience.

Breakfast with the NZ delegation

The morning of the breakfast brought the first sun we had seen all week due to Typhoon Damrey. Our eagerness for the events of the morning saw us be one of the first groups to arrive at the location which allowed us some quality one on one time with the early comers before official proceedings. The seating arrangement saw us seated at different tables amongst some of the most influential economic leaders in New Zealand. It was a humbling experience to be included in the table conversation with such prominent people and have our opinions heard and valued.

The Prime Minister's speech was honest and heartfelt and spoke 100% to the image of New Zealand. Upon meeting and each having our own conversations with her, she made us realise how similarly minded we all are in the challenges our country faces, giving us an overwhelming sense of empowerment. No doubt, the breakfast was one of the highlights of the week.

Closing Ceremony

To bring to a close to an unforgettable experience we were hosted at the APEC Voices of the Future Closing Ceremony at the Palm Garden Resort. It was a great occasion with closing remarks from Mr. James Soh, Co-Chair of APEC Voices Leadership Council and Mr Dihn Van Thu, Chairman of Quang Nam Province People’s Committee, an official signing of the Youth Declaration, as well as gift exchanges and certificate presentations.

After the formalities, we indulged in some authentic Vietnamese cuisine and prepared for the much anticipated cultural performances. One by one each economy presented a cultural item to the delegation giving us a glimpse of the popular cultural traditions from each economy. Although most economies did a great job with their performances, it was also evident that some delegates found it really difficult to confidently present a performance that represented the culture of their country.

After having realised this, it made us even more amped for our performance and appreciative of the pride and respect New Zealand has for our Māori culture and indigenous people. We presented New Zealand’s unique Māori Culture by singing (along with actions) a waiata, ‘Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi’. We then called upon our Pacifika brothers from Papua New Guinea (who we had been practising with throughout the week) to perform the famous Haka, ‘Ka Mate’. As always, this was a hit with the crowd and even prompted a few of the Australian youth delegates to come join us on stage. To finish off the night everyone went on stage and all together performed the Vietnamese delegation’s pop performance and
dance. It was an awesome way to end our experience with APEC VOF, celebrating our achievements, learnings and acknowledging the strong connections made over the duration of the conference.


We would like to thank all those who made this excellent programme possible. Thank you to the New Zealand educators Catherine Wilson, Cushla Matheson and David Ward who accompanied us for all their work organising and taking care of us. Thank you to James Soh, Pengru Tan and the working committee of the APEC Voices of the Future for all their work organising and coordinating the event.

The youth delegation would also like to thank MFAT for organising and inviting us to the breakfast with the New Zealand delegation. Thank you to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, ABAC members and the New Zealand business leaders for sharing their knowledge and opinions with us. Special thanks to Peter Chrisp for his help at the CEO conference and to Stephen Jacobi for providing us with his valuable insights prior to our trip.

The outstanding support from AUT, Victoria University, Massey University, MFAT, ATEED and Te Puni Kokiri must also be acknowledged as without their support, this amazing experience would not have been possible. The 2017 NZ APEC Voices youth delegates are privileged to have been able to have the incredible experience.

VOICES 2017: List

Anne-Sophie - Massey University

Numerous times throughout my week at APEC, people questioned my place in being there after telling them what I studied, and in many ways I guess they were justified. What did a vet student have to offer to the economic discussions of the Asia Pacific Region? Certainly nothing in comparison to the economic, business, political and international relation degrees that surrounded me. My credibility has always been in the environment and not foreign enterprise and trade. But that was the first thing I took home from this summit; how closely intertwined the two components are.

Over the week, The debates amongst delegates from different economies, drafting of the youth declaration, keynote addresses and discussion panels at the CEO Summit raised many points. The ones that resonated particularly with me included issues arising from lack of sustainable development and the need for shared prosperity for inclusive growth. The timing of Typhoon Damrey and with our week at APEC not only gave the Vietnamese an opportunity to show their resilience, but also highlighted that climate change is one of the largest economic and humanitarian challenges that the Asia Pacific region faces today. I was disappointed to see that not more emphasis was put on it. APEC showed me that we live in exciting, progressive, prosperous, alarming, frightening and unsure times. At the time, APEC felt pivotal but we won’t truly know until a weeks/months/years/decades time when we look back on all those defining moments. It was an honor to represent Aotearoa and stand beside such talented youth delegates. I have already started using the knowledge and contacts that I have gained from APEC and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Jes Sweetman - Ngāti Kahungunu - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED)

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

This whakataukī summarises the strong connections and invaluable knowledge shared with my fellow youth delegates who attended APEC VOF 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam. Looking to the future, it also highlights the importance of unity and collaboration between the 21 APEC economies, as the need to adapt to change, innovate and support one another has never been more prevalent.

My biggest take-away from the APEC 2017 Summit, and probably the most relevant to my role working within ATEED, is the need to develop strong economies through inclusive growth. Inclusion is good for growth and growth is good for inclusion. We need to ensure that all members of society have equal access to opportunities for sustainable economic growth and in the spirit of Kotahitanga, which refers to unity and working together as one, all members of society have a role to play in achieving this growth.

It is evident that ATEED plays a vital role in eliminating barriers that hinder inclusive growth for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). Therefore, we need to focus on leading new partnerships and come up innovative approaches to addressing some of these issues. We need to further invest into growing our people and empowering our communities to ensure a more prosperous future for all.

It was an absolute privilege to attend in the APEC 2017 Voices Summit, working to foster a shared vision and shared growth
amongst youth from the Asia Pacific Regions. I would especially like to thank all the sponsors for providing the youth of NZ with a voice amongst some of the world’s biggest leaders and most influential decision makers.

Tracy Han - AUT

To have been selected as the AUT representative to attend APEC Voices of Future 2017 as a youth delegate was a truly incredible and intercultural experience. Engaging with the network of youth delegates and educators from the 16 other economies, was one of the core aspects of this youth educational diplomacy programme. Regardless of cultural, political and national differences, I found it fascinating to discover how more alike than different we all were in our intentions to challenge the status quo and to make the world a better place through achieving economic prosperity. We came together as one collective at the APEC Voices of the Future Youth Forum and drew solutions to how we would ‘create new dynamism and foster a shared future’ within the Asia-Pacific region. We bonded over activities such as drafting the declaration, the Cultural Day and were saddened to bid each other farewell after the Closing Ceremony.

Some of my personal highlights included being invited to the NZ breakfast where we had the extraordinary opportunity to interact with the NZ delegation amongst Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the Ambassador Wendy Matthews, CEO’s from New Zealand as well as members of ABAC. Exploring the social, economic, cultural and political landscape of Vietnam first-hand through visits around Hoi An, Da Nang, Quang Nam and Ho Chi Minh City was another highlight.

Being a part of APEC Voices 2017 has helped me to develop a stronger perspective about the collaborative approach needed, in order to address the Asia Pacific region’s issues. The key challenges that the Asia Pacific region is currently facing stems from sustainability issues relating to climate change and the evolution of the Digital Age, which is transforming the economic and social fabrics of society. As a result, there is the need for effective Human Resource Development to ensure that governments, businesses and communities can help facilitate economic prosperity and growth that is inclusive of all socio-economic groups.

Central to the theme of “Creating New Dynamism, fostering a Shared Future, it is also important to recognise the importance of transformational leadership, through empowerment and investing in the capabilities of today’s youth. This is important to help challenge the status quo, reform societal norms and find fresh and innovative issues to address our existent problems.

My APEC journey has successfully fulfilled its objective in helping me develop myself professionally and personally. It has developed my self-confidence, resilience and made me comfortable with taking up new challenges that extend beyond my comfort zone. I would like to finally thank AUT for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn and grow.

Zachary George-Neich - Victoria University of Wellington

APEC Voices of the Future 2017 was an incredible and memorable experience that I feel privileged to have been a part of. I have long held an interest in economics and international relations. The economic and social implications of change, like the rapid advances in technology have been fascinating to me. The opportunity to listen to economic and political leaders speak at the various events like the Youth Forum, APEC CEO Summit and the New Zealand delegation breakfast was a big highlight. Hearing first hand from these people about the potential gains and challenges that may come in the future was an invaluable experience.

The chance to meet and interact with youth from across the Asia-Pacific and experience the unique culture of Vietnam were other highlights of this wonderful trip.

At the beginning of the trip, we were challenged to do things outside of our comfort zone and take full advantage of this amazing opportunity. I tried to do this throughout the trip and take full advantage of all opportunities. I gave a speech at the Youth Forum about New Zealand’s position on creating new dynamism and fostering a shared future. While I have done some public speaking before, I don’t remember a time that had been as nervous before giving a speech. I feel it went well though and I am happy that I was able to do it. I also took the opportunity to speak to many different people from many different countries. This allowed for exposure to cultures that I had previously had no knowledge about and this was a valuable learning experience. APEC Voices of the Future was amazing and I am very grateful to Victoria University providing me this opportunity.

VOICES 2017: List
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