Women Leaders’ Network Meeting WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND JUNE 20-23, 1999

The 1999 WLN Meeting contributed to the drafting of policy recommendations for presentation to APEC Trade Ministers. This was the first time the WLN recommendations were made directly to APEC Ministers for Trade.

The statements from the 1999 Leaders Summit, the Minister's Joint Ministerial, the Ministers responsible for Trade and the Human Resources Development Ministerial included responses to these recommendations. The 1999 WLN Declaration and Recommendations recommended that APEC:

+ Adopt the Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC, which included the following elements: gender analysis, collection and use of sex-disaggregated data, involvement of women in APEC, and an implementation plan;

+ Ensure the full implementation of the Framework that will lead to a stronger, more inclusive, responsive and effective APEC;

+ Develop process and mechanisms for coordinating and monitoring the integration of women, as a means of enhancing the management of APEC; and

+ Ensure that APEC economies address the differential impacts of trade policies o­n women and men and ensure that any measure taken as a result of this are an integral part to the WTO process (WLN 1999).

The IWEBS participants presented the following three recommendations to the WLN to be forwarded to the APEC Leaders (and these were included in the 1999 WLN Declaration and Recommendations):

+ To note the success and value of the Indigenous Women in Exporting Business seminar and the importance of its contribution;

+ To recognize and acknowledge the significant and unique role and contribution of indigenous women in each of our economies and of the APEC region as a whole; and To recognize the existence of indigenous knowledge systems in APEC economies and the importance of protecting indigenous cultures (Lever 2000).

The 1999 WLN Declaration and Recommendations mentions both social and economic concerns, and this makes it stand out from previous recommendations. To illustrate, the document states "We wish to further emphasize the linkages between social and economic policies and the pre-eminent requirement to ensure that the basic needs of people are met and cultural values are respected. The sustainability of natural resources as well as the cooperation within and between economies are essential for economic growth and stability for future generations" (WLN 1999). This statement also demonstrates the inclusion of environmental and cultural interests in these recommendations. Furthermore, the 1999 WLN Declaration reiterates that APEC economies could benefit from improved monitoring and information systems that identify the possible differential impacts of policies o­n women and men and also o­n different groups and cultures within our societies. It is clear that the 1999 WLN Declaration and Recommendations focused strongly o­n the promotion of the principles of active participation, partnership and respect for diversity.

Achievements and Outcomes

A key achievement of the 1999 WLN Meeting was that the WLN obtained official recognition of the unique and substantial contribution of indigenous women in APEC by both Trade Ministers and Leaders. This recognition started a process in which both the WLN and APEC began to develop relationships with indigenous and rural women in the region. The final statement from the Trade Ministers specifically recognized the unique contribution of indigenous businesswomen in APEC. The inclusion of indigenous women in the WLN process resulted in a general broadening of who is involved in the WLN and with APEC. In addition, members of the WLN gained greater awareness of some of the key issues facing indigenous businesswomen and of the need to specifically include indigenous women leaders in WLN deliberations and process (Pebbles 1999c).

Another achievement was the increased profile that gender issues received within the APEC context as a result of the WLN being asked to present the 1999 WLN Declaration and Recommendations to the Trade Ministerial Meeting for the first time. Other relevant 1999 WLN recommendations were presented to the APEC Human Resource Development Ministerial in July 1999, and all recommendations went to the APEC Economic Leaders meeting in September 1999 (Government of New Zealand 1999).

A further outcome of this meeting is that the WLN component of CIDA's Gender APEC Project took o­n the responsibility of producing a database of female expertise in the APEC region upon which APEC could draw for a wide variety of programs and purposes. The WLN therefore provided APEC with a concrete mechanism to actively engage more women from multiple sectors in APEC activities.

The previous two WLN Meetings focused o­n the needs of women-led SMES. The 1999 WLN meeting was held prior to the 1999 Trade Ministerial and identified and promoted the need to engage in a policy development process which would focus o­n trade issues of relevance to both women in the region and to APEC. Therefore, the 1999 WLN moved forward to include women related trade issues in its dialogue with APEC. The 1999 WLN Meeting also emphasized broad-based participation, particularly of indigenous women, and this brought something new to the WLN political agenda. These gains were tempered somewhat by the fact that the New Zealand domestic political agenda at this meeting sometimes dominated the discourse, rather than the meeting maintaining a focus o­n the WLN'S political agenda and goals.

Focal Point Survey

Canada also agreed to coordinate a survey of all Focal Points regarding the future directions and structure of the Network. The Canadian WLN Manager sent out the first round of surveys in August 1999. Following a consultative and consensual process, ten economies responded and a summary of their responses was sent to all Focal Points for comment. In the interim, another three economies sent in completed surveys and another two economies gave written feedback o­n the first draft. These comments and any additional information were incorporated in the second draft of the report. A second survey built o­n this first consensual report was sent out to all Focal Points for the purpose of clarifying any information received in the first round. Seven economies responded to the second survey. The Brunei WLN organizing committee asked Canada to chair a session o­n the 'Future of the WLN' and Canada used this summary as a starting point to build consensus around key issues both prior to and at the WLN 2000 Meeting.

The most important finding from the survey was that Focal Points affirmed that the first priority of the WLN should still be 'to encourage APEC to take gender into account in all of its programs and policies" (Peebles 2000). Their second priority was 'to provide women leaders from the region with an opportunity to exchange ideas and examine ways in which they can collaborate in different areas and to network" (Peebles 2000). There was general agreement o­n the top four priorities of the Network. Twelve of the thirteen economies also agreed that the WLN meeting should be held every year as opposed to every two years. There was also a clear need to determine ways to make the workload lighter for the host economy (Peebles 2000).

The survey also outlined different options as to the future nature of the WLN. There was general agreement that the WLN should be maintained as an informal network, but that it needed an expanded management committee to facilitate the coordination of WLN activities o­n an o­n-going basis and to support the host economy each year.

Nine of the thirteen economies still do not have a formal process for the selection of Focal Points. Most Focal Points are appointed informally by their governments although they are not all necessarily drawn from the public sector. None of the Focal Points had a defined term of service (Peebles 2000). This means that accountability and transparency remains an issue that could adversely affect the Network's credibility. This is particularly critical as in a couple of economies the Focal Points have not been distributing information received to their members, and have been making decisions unilaterally.

The Focal Point Survey achieved an increased commitment o­n the part of all of the Focal Points to participate in o­n-going discussions regarding the sustainability and future structure of the WLN, and helped build an increased understanding of the need to hold more extensive WLN business sessions to maintain and develop the Network. Given the different needs, capacities, and cultures of the 21 APEC economies, making the final decision o­n how to make the WLN a sustainable network meant that it was still going to take a concerted effort and commitment o­n the part of all of the stakeholders involved at the 2000 WLN Meeting in Brunei (Peebles 2000).

Issues and Concerns

The 1999 WLN Meeting generated concerns regarding the Policy Recommendation Drafting Process. Meeting participants felt they did not have significant input into the policy recommendations that were drafted and therefore did not feel they were part of the policy drafting process, nor was there a clear idea of what the policy drafting process was (Peebles 1999c). Discussions in each session were also generally dominated by New Zealanders and often by their domestic economic, social, and political issues. The Canadian team member who sat o­n the drafting committee observed that the set-up of the conference sessions was far more conducive to the drafting of very general recommendations than more specific o­nes related to sectoral issues. Canadian input into the policy recommendation process was substantial despite the conference structure, due to both the vocal nature and numbers of the Canadian team (there were a total of 22 Canadians present), and due to the participation of o­ne of the Canadian team members as o­ne of the key members of the drafting committee (Peebles 1999c). In general, the 1999 WLN Meeting created greater awareness of the need for a genuinely consultative policy drafting process among the different WLN members.

Participants also observed that perhaps the WLN needs to move beyond the drafting of policy recommendations as an advocacy strategy and develop additional strategies as complementary measures to support a change process (Peebles 1999c). However, if the main purpose of the WLN meeting is to draft policy recommendations, then the annual meeting sessions need to be set up in a smaller workshop format and be designed to generate and review policy recommendations in specific areas. The Canadian 1999 WLN Lessons Learned Report suggested organizing the WLN meeting as a multipurpose event. For example, part of the meeting would be in a conference format to foster a broader base participation in the WLN and APEC in the host economy, and another part would focus o­n a more policy-oriented workshop format to generate area-specific recommendations and action plans. In the future, these multipurpose meetings could be used to monitor the APEC gender integration process and report back o­n the progress made as well as to schedule strategy sessions (Peebles 1999c).

Despite all this, the New Zealand way of organizing the WLN Meeting did allow for a much broader engagement of society with both the WLN and APEC. The New Zealanders also did not hesitate to address the downsides of the trade liberalization process. This openness made it much easier to address some of the key concerns of WLN members. However, for open-ended participation in a WLN meeting to be meaningful there must also be follow-up to ensure that people remain involved.

The 1999 WLN meeting also revealed the need to formalize the selection process of its Focal Points. This needs to be done at the economy level and the host economy must be kept informed of the results of the selection process. The WLN Meeting organizers need to take o­n the responsibility of updating the Focal Point list each year and to ensure that the Focal Points are consulted and informed about key issues, particularly who is to be nominated from each economy to attend the annual meeting. o­ne concern is that in a few economies, there is more than o­ne person who claims to be the Focal Point. Another is that some Focal Points do not share the information they receive with the other Network members in their economies. Consequently, in the future it will be necessary to send out copies of any WLN correspondence or related material to the Focal Points as well as to additional contact persons in all the economies who have self-identified themselves as experiencing either of these problems (Peebles 1999c).

During this meeting, there was also a reiteration of the need for APEC to fully implement the Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC. However, there was not sufficient time allocated during the Meeting to determine if and how the WLN should take o­n a monitoring role to support the Framework's implementation (Peebles 1999c).