Women Leaders’ Network Meeting: Ottawa - Hull, Canada - September 13-16, 1997

In the Declaration and Recommendations of the Women Leaders' Network at its second meeting in 1997, the WLN reaffirmed the 1996 Manila Call to Action, promoted its continued and consistent implementation throughout APEC processes and structures, and reemphasized the vital contribution of women to APEC economies.

 This document states that: "Investment in women's human resources and their enterprises will benefit APEC economies and will strengthen prospects for equitable economic growth, the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development in the region (WLN 1997a). The 1997 WLN Statement and Recommendations also applauded APEC for taking steps to implement its commitment to "put special emphasis o­n the full participation of women and youth" in the implementation of its economic and technical cooperation agenda (WLN 1997a).

The WLN 1997 Statement and Recommendations built upon the Manila Call to Action, and urged APEC Leaders to take actions to:

+ Recognize gender as a cross-cutting priority in all APEC fora and to integrate a gender perspective at all levels APEC work;

+ Approve the recommendations of APEC Senior Officials to convene a Ministerial Meeting in the Republic of the Philippines in 1998, bringing together Ministers whose responsibilities cut across women's issues in order to address women's concerns more effectively; and

+ Ensure the full participation of women through equitable representation at all levels of APEC (including such APEC-appointed bodies as ABAC) and all APEC activities (Lever 2000 and WLN 1997b). The target of at least 30% participation of women by the year 2000 was recommended (WLN 1997b).

The WLN 1997 Meeting also made the following sector specific recommendations:

Access to Markets

+ To raise the profile of women entrepreneurs

+ To have at least o­ne woman per economy o­n ABAC

+ Women ABAC representatives should comprise an APEC Advisory Business Council of Women (ABAC-AABCW)

Access to Technology

+ To use a broader definition of technology than just information technology and for telecommunications to include indigenous knowledge

+ Use technology-related education and training to create virtual environments

Access to Human Resources

+ To institute specific training programs

+ To identify and disseminate best practices in human resource development

+ To recognize and reward corporations adopting equality ethics and to publicize best practices

Access to Finance

+ To adopt legislation removing impediments to women's access to finance

+ To encourage banks to evaluate women entrepreneurs' projects o­n objective criteria

+ For audits of bank practices to assess approval rates o­n gender basis

Access to lnformation

+ To ensure the APEC Network of Networks has specific information and access for women business entrepreneurs

+ To initiate and support the coaching of women in the use of information technologies

+ To ensure cost-efficient Internet access (WLN 1997b)

In general, the 1997 WLN recommendations urged SME Ministers to call upon the WLN, along with national and regional women's business associations, as a resource with relevant gender and business expertise.

Achievements and Outcomes

The 1997 WLN Meeting achieved several key things. Firstly, the WLN obtained an official invitation to present their recommendations directly to the SME Ministers at the 1997 APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in Ottawa, that immediately followed the 1997 WLN Meeting. Secondly, the WLN influenced the creation of an ad hoc group o­n Gender, Science and Technology under the umbrella of the APEC lndustrial Science and Technology (IST) Working Group and the initiation of a gender information site o­n the first APEC Website. Thirdly, the WLN actively participated in APEC activities and was consulted about its gender expertise in a number of APEC fora. Fourthly, the WLN was able to increase its o­n-line presence. There was already an active website that highlighted the outcomes of the 1996 WLN Meeting. The Chinese Taipei Chapter of the WLN offered to establish a permanent WLN website that would be hot-linked to the 1996 site and serve as a cyberspace forum for the viewpoints of WLN members, a source of official WLN conference documentation from the 1997 WLN Meeting and beyond, and provide basic information about the WLN.

The larger and longer-term outcome of the 1997 WLN meeting was that the recommendations from this meeting were used by the WLN to lobby APEC Leaders and directly contributed to their decision to hold the first Ministerial Meeting o­n Women in Manila o­n October 15-16, 1998.

This was achieved by joint public/private sector lobbying by senior women in Canada (Lever 2000) as well as pressure placed o­n other APEC Leaders by WLN members in other economies.

The 1997 WLN Meeting built and capitalized o­n the successes of the 1996 WLN Meeting in Manila by taking advantage of APEC’s recognition of the WLN as a voice for women's concerns in the APEC region. Consequently, the WLN successfully put o­nto the APEC political agenda the need to hold a Women's Ministerial Meeting. Overall, the 1997 WLN Meeting contributed greatly to the policy recommendation drafting process and helped establish a clear process for consultations and consensus-building.

Issues and Concerns

The 1997 WLN Meeting raised several issues and concerns. o­ne of the most pressing issues was the sustainability of the WLN, since it was being funded primarily by CIDA. To facilitate its future sustainability, in 1997 the WLN decided that it would maintain the Network in its present form, as an informal network of influential women leaders who would continue to lobby APEC o­n specific gender issues to fulfill the mandate outlined in the Manila Call to Action and to serve as a parallel, flexible, outside pressure group. Network participants suggested that o­ne way to maintain the Network was to establish a permanent WLN website. By the end of 1997, there were three active WLN websites and five organizations had indicated interest in hosting and managing a WLN website.

The 1997 WLN Meeting participants also discussed the possibility of the WLN seeking incorporation as a formal advisory body to specific APEC structures such as the SME Policy Level Group or to develop an APEC Women's Business Committee, and of establishing a permanent WLN Secretariat in an APEC economy to support the development of the Network and its objectives. Both these proposals would have forced the WLN to obtain o­n-going financing and to build consensus o­n who would be responsible formaintaining it (WLN 1997b).

It was not possible to achieve this consensus by the end of the 1997 WLN Meeting.

Although o­ne of the concerns was that the 1997 meeting focused mainly o­n the development of women-owned SMEs, the role of civil society was o­ne of the cross-cutting themes of the Meeting and was considered in all workshops. There were in fact three co-chairs of the Meeting, o­ne of whom was a civil society representative. Many of the workshop speakers were drawn from civil society, as was the chair of the session o­n "Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Equity". Despite the central economic and SME focus of this meeting, there was also representation from civil society groups that advocated o­n behalf of domestic workers.

However, the recommendations made no mention of the Network explicitly working and lobbying for change in trade practices of member economies that exploit women workers.

Despite the fact that there was a session held o­n "Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Equity" during the 1997 WLN Meeting, there was no mention in the recommendations of such related concerns, which leaves the impression that the WLN is more focused o­n trade liberalization than other areas. By focusing so strongly o­n women-owned SMEs, the WLN gave its critics the impression that it was supporting trade liberalization without maintaining equal pressure o­n ethical business practices that directly affect women. This is important since the primary reason for the existence of the WLN is to work towards ensuring that APEC countries develop and enforce policies, regulations and guidelines that support gender concerns, perspectives, and equity.

Although the 1997 WLN Meeting facilitated networking opportunities between sectors, the 1997 WLN Statement and Recommendations themselves do not contain any mention of the possibility of the WLN and APEC working towards the fostering of alliances between women at all levels, such as professional women with women at the grassroots. Such alliances can serve as an exchange of skills, knowledge, and access to the various institutions including the formal institutions of government and strong grassroots women's organizations.