One of the foremost questions we had going into the trip was how an organization that lacks enforcement mechanisms can achieve anything of note. Although we didn’t necessarily see it all, there was a great deal of high-level, high-quality dialogue that took place among business and political leaders at ABAC and APEC. That dialogue has an intrinsic value; however, the only true measurable gains that APEC can produce come with issues of trade facilitation (i.e. lowering transaction costs). That might be something of a controversial statement given the achievements of falling tariffs, raising millions out of poverty, and prioritizing climate change for which APEC regularly credits itself. Nevertheless, it’s hard to discern whether or not in these cases APEC is the cause or merely one independent variable among others.
What this APEC will be remembered for the most is the Sydney Declaration which was decided upon consensus by the leaders of the 21 member economies at close of business Saturday. The non-binding agreement set forth plans to slow, stop, and regress the effects of global warming and climate change. This effort was heavily pushed forward by the United States, and Australia. Though most consider this a modest agreement, it is a step in the right direction. It sets goals for reforestation and the reduction of energy-intensity. It also called upon the United Nations to handle climate-change negotiations while leaders are working to find an acceptable replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.
What we will particularly remember is the extreme level of security that Sydney was under during APEC. Although there was the presence of businessman, political leaders, and media from the 21 member economies, the city felt like a ghost town when walking around because of the large amount of barricades. The average person visiting Sydney would not have known that APEC was the biggest event to be held there since the 2000 Olympics. Many businesses were affected and many Sydney-siders left town for the week, leaving the Australian police as the one of the only . The Australian police were an ever-present force during our time.
The greatest benefit that we are bringing home to the United States is the interaction we had with university students from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. It will be fascinating to see what roles these students will play in their country and throughout the region as they begin to use their Voices.
We would like to especially thank the Riley Institute and the John I. Smith Foundation for making this experience possible. We would also like to thank Dr. Don Gordon for taking time out of his schedule to accompany us to Australia and serve as our mentor and educator while we were there.
Alli, Anna, Elizabeth & Pete