The voices of APEC’s future
( - December 1, 2015 - 4:42am

MANILA, Philippines - On Nov. 16, 2015, I found myself in a room full of world leaders, prominent entrepreneurs and executives from Fortune 500 companies convened to discuss challenges to free trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region and strategies for inclusive economic growth, among others.

Along with 126 other youth delegates carefully selected from 17 APEC member-economies under the APEC Voices of the Future (VOF) program, I was at a loss as to what, if any, we, bright-eyed, hopeful but relatively inexperienced, could contribute to the discourse.

The APEC VOF, an annual program that gathers 120-150 youth representatives and educators from APEC economies to conceive youth-oriented strategies to the most pressing problems in the region, extensively prepared us for our participation in the APEC Summit.

For two days, the Asian Development Bank hosted us as we discussed the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and which of them are most pertinent to the economies we represent.

We drafted programs to accomplish these goals that capitalize on the reach and influence of social media and youth networks. We had a special session with the APEC Business Advisory Council in which we offered our views on the opportunities presented by today’s megatrends and asked questions on the role of educational institutions in developing innovations and a conducive climate for business. We spent a day at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm to see the viability of social entrepreneurship as a way of empowering the rising poor without compromising profit. When the time came for us to attend the Summit, we had a clear vision of the future we wanted to make our legacy.

Hearing from President Obama, Jack Ma, President Bachelet and Tony Fernandes, among others, allowed us to refine that vision, building on their achievements while identifying strategies that might have worked for their circumstances but are no longer practicable in today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world.

It was at the end of the Summit that I realized what we were there for: to learn from and offer a fresh perspective to not only the most renowned state and business leaders of this generation, but also each other as leaders of the next generation in whose hands lie the completion of the forum’s long-term goals. The leaders who took the stage during the Summit set the agenda, but even the road to its accomplishment would outlive them.

We were there to come to terms with the enormity of the task we would inevitably shoulder. We were there because our idealism, sometimes dismissed as naiveté, made us less willing to compromise our vision of APEC and its role in the world. We were there because, one day, we too would take the stage as leaders addressing not only the dignitaries and industry frontrunners whose activities formed a bulk of the media coverage of APEC 2015, but also a group of young individuals, uncertain of their place in the forum as we were, but on whom we would, in turn, pin our hopes for a brighter future.


Pauline Marie R. Gairanod, 24, born and raised in Zamboanga City, was a Philippine youth delegate to the 2015 APEC Voices of the Future program. She is in her final term in the University of the Philippines College of Law. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Ateneo de Manila University and her early education from Pilar College – Zamboanga City. She is a member of the UP Law team that won the Oxford University - Monroe E. Price Moot Court Competition in the United Kingdom early this year where she was awarded Best Oralist in the Championship Round and 4th Best Oralist in the Over-all Top Ten. She hopes that more Mindanaoans will be selected for the APEC VOF in the future.

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