Overview of the Women and the Economy agenda in APEC
What is the women’s agenda in APEC? The entire conversation on this vital program was concretized when, in 1996, the APEC founded the Women Leaders’ Network: an informal, dynamic network that brings together women leaders from all sectors to provide policy recommendations to APEC officials. Through this landmark development, the Action Program of APEC introduced the gender dimension, where leaders put special emphasis on the women’s participation in APEC.
In 1998, the first APEC Ministerial Meeting on Women held in Makati City, Philippines led to the publication of the Framework for the Integration on Women in APEC the following year. It recognized the nature of gender equality as a cross-cutting issue in APEC. The Framework outlines a practical and systematic approach on how to fully integrate women into the mainstream APEC processes and activities.
What soon followed are groups that pushed to advance the Framework, such as the Ad-Hoc Advisory Group on Gender Integration (AGGI) which was later replaced by the Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN). Through the years, these working groups continuously discussed women's issues and agenda and later on focused more closely on women's economic empowerment.
At the 2011 Senior Officials’ Meeting held at Big Sky, Montana, USA, the importance of women’s economic empowerment gained greater ground with the combination of the former APEC-GFPN and the private-sector oriented WLN, leading to the establishment of the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE).
With a broad goal of advancing the Framework for the Integration of Women in APEC, the PPWE coordinates with APEC working groups, APEC economies, and the APEC Secretariat, and reports to the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE). The PPWE provides a mechanism to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment goals across APEC work streams and gives policy advice on gender issues relevant to the APEC process.
In 2011, the United States’ hosted the first High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy. Economies agreed to take concrete actions to realize the full economic potential of women, as outlined in the San Francisco Declaration endorsed by the APEC Economic Leaders the same year.
APEC Economic Leaders acknowledged that women’s potential remains untapped in four priority areas: (1) access to capital, (2) access to markets, (3) capacity and skills building, and (4) women’s leadership. The 2012 High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy held in Russia helped identify the fifth priority area: access to technology and innovation. More than just creating new economic opportunities for women, these ensured that gender equality and women’s economic advancement remain at the forefront of APEC Economic Leaders’ agenda.
Since then, 21 economies meet once a year at the APEC Women and the Economy Fora; a conjunction of three components:
(1) Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE)
(2) Public Private Dialogue on Women and the Economy (PPDWE), and
(3) High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy (HLPD)
The APEC Women and the Economy Fora has emerged as a conscious effort by women representatives to take stock of past achievements, identify present and continuing barriers as well as appropriate interventions, and support future aspirations for women’s full participation.