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Statement by APO Secretary-General
by Mari Amano
It is a great honor for me to attend this distinguished gathering of Heads of NPOs and Agriculture delegates for the first time.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Government of Fiji for its generosity in hosting this year’s WSM in Nadi. We are very privileged to have had His Excellency Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama as the guest of honor at this WSM. Our deepest appreciation also goes to APO Director for Fiji Taito Waqa, Vice Chancellor Dr. Ganesh Chand of Fiji National University, and APO Alternate Director as well as NPO Head for Fiji Kamlesh Prakash for the excellent arrangements and warm hospitality.
One of the main objectives of this WSM will be to discuss and confirm the final lineup of APO projects for 2014. In addition, this WSM must also discuss and endorse a new program plan for the 2015/2016 biennium. The plan developed in consultation with NPOs and liaison officers will be discussed during the strategic planning sessions tomorrow. If endorsed by this WSM, the plan will form the basis to request the budget for the 2015/2016 biennium at next year’s GBM.
One significant change in this year’s WSM program is the introduction of breakout sessions that replace the traditional country paper segment to allow more time for delegates to discuss strategic issues. I look forward to your active participation and sharing of new ideas and experiences later today.
I would like to update the WSM on the progress of projects implemented earlier this year. The launch of the Center of Excellence on Green Productivity marked a significant milestone in the APO’s GP strategy and signals the start of a series of GP-related activities such as conferences and research projects.
The 2013 edition of the APO Productivity Databook was released three months ago with new features such as the computation of total factor productivity for Pakistan and Sri Lanka and an online US dollar-based index for cross-country comparisons. To meet the demands of IT-savvy users of the APO’s productivity statistics who include policymakers and the media, we will develop smartphone apps to increase their accessibility.
The Secretariat is in the process of conducting a need assessment survey among member countries to identify the current requirements of each. The findings will support mid-term project planning and provide further inputs for the APO Roadmap 2020.
We would like to thank Singapore and other stakeholders for their strong support in the successful implementation of the 8th EPIF. Preparations for next year’s EPIF to be held in the Taipei have already commenced with the strong support and commitment of the China Productivity Center and Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Republic of China. The next EPIF will broaden its target visitors to include not only business but also government as well as relevant segments of the consumer market. I would like to request that member countries strongly encourage private-sector corporations and public-sector agencies to take part in the 9th EPIF.
We have reviewed the Eco-products Database with the help of experts and will be expanding it to cover countries beyond the Asia-Pacific. We will also be utilizing new, more cost-effective, more flexible media platforms to reach out to our audience instead of traditional print. The next phase of the project will be launched early next year.
In 2013, the Government of Japan will be funding four special cash grant projects. I am happy to report that one of them, the Observational Study Mission on Photovoltaic and Solar Cell Technology, took place two weeks ago in Tokyo and Kitakyushu. This project created opportunities for participants and Japanese technology companies to interact and explore collaborations aimed at introducing more advanced clean solar technology to the region. In addition, there was also substantial media interest in the mission, resulting in newspaper and television news coverage in Japan.
The Secretariat is also working with the Japan Productivity Center to implement a second project funded by a special cash grant, the Workshop on Labor-Management Relations scheduled for next month. The workshop will focus on the automotive industry. The remaining two projects are scheduled for early next year.
The APO has also been active in the agriculture sector with its annual Asian Food and Agribusiness Conference. The conference provides a unique forum for leaders from the public and private sectors, representatives of NGOs, scientists, consultants, and entrepreneurs to discuss current and emerging topics important to advances in agriculture, agribusiness, and food industries in the Asia-Pacific.
With a special cash grant from the Government of Japan, the Special Program for Strengthening the Capacity for Food Supply Chain Management in Asian Least Developed Countries continued in 2013 to support in-country programs in Cambodia and Lao PDR. The grant also funded two multicountry observational study missions to Japan which focused on agriculture.
The APO is particularly grateful to the Government of Japan for providing these special cash grants and would like to encourage other member countries to do likewise and fund projects that meet specific national developmental needs and help promote the APO to the world.
The GBM held earlier this year approved the 2014 Program Plan. The weakening of the yen against the US dollar allowed the Secretariat to adjust the exchange rate from 79 yen to 93 yen to the dollar. This reduced the 2014 administrative budget by about 15% and allowed the Secretariat to channel the savings into increasing budgets for TES and DON as well as organizing two study missions to nonmember countries which will allow our key stakeholders to learn best practices and modern technologies from those advanced economies.
In 2014, the APO will build upon the projects implemented in the previous year to generate research outputs. We will strengthen the ability of the APO to impart knowledge gained from productivity research activities to build up the capacity of NPOs in areas such as productivity measurement, SME performance benchmarking, and entrepreneurship.
In summary, the Secretariat proposes to introduce five more projects and top up the budgets for Category C projects as requested by member countries. The revised project lineup for 2014 now features a total of 75 including 62 multicountry projects and is presented for the WSM’s endorsement.
The proposed lineups of projects for 2015 and 2016 are aligned with our three strategic directions. In determining the priority of projects, the Secretariat took into consideration the survey results from member countries, policy directives of the GBM, comments made at the liaison officers’ workshop, and distribution of projects by strategic direction as well as continuity with projects in 2013/2014.
Based on your feedback, the APO will continue its focus on public-sector projects in 2015/2016 after successfully implementing several projects that resulted in the adoption of the public-sector productivity framework in 2012 and our first publication on knowledge management for the public sector, among other achievements.
Productivity in higher education is one new area that the APO has started to work on this year and we will continue to study the issues more in depth in 2015 and 2016 considering its importance to member countries.
Other new areas that the APO will be looking into in the 2015/16 biennium include social marketing, change management, gender mainstreaming, and developing more precise methods of measuring public-sector productivity. Projects will incorporate elements of key productivity tools and methodologies, such as knowledge management, result-based management, and human capital strategy. At the same time, we will strengthen our role as a think tank to influence policymakers on emerging issues impacting productivity in APO economies such as demographics and public-sector productivity.
In the field of agriculture and food, the APO will continue its focus on two areas for 2015 and 2016. The first is equipping our farming communities to adapt to climate change. In connection with this, the APO will assist them by identifying solutions to mitigate agriculture’s impact on the environment. Sensitizing policymakers and preparing various stakeholders in the region to face these challenges will also be a priority.
The second area is promoting and facilitating good food safety management practices as these play an important role in public perception and building consumer confidence. Structured basic and advanced courses will be developed to equip managers of food enterprises with deeper knowledge of international food safety standards and policies.
The 2015/2016 Program Plan was developed taking into account your inputs to yield the best possible lineup of projects within the budget available. The lineup for 2015/2016 features 77 programs and projects on the priority list with another 12 multicountry projects on the reserve list. This is presented to the WSM for discussion at the strategic planning sessions tomorrow.
I would now like to outline my thoughts on three key elements: relevance, transparency, and productivity. To stay relevant to the needs of member countries, one of my major objectives as the new Secretary-General of the APO is for the organization to expand its activities across the Asia-Pacific and increase international collaboration in relevant strategic areas.
For example, we intend to collaborate with Cornell University, one of the top universities worldwide, to pilot test a course in agribusiness management. Next month, we will also partner with the Government of Thailand, International Energy Agency, and Asian Development Bank to carry out a training program on sustainable energy. I have no doubt that such high-profile collaborations with internationally renowned institutions will not only raise the quality and prestige of our programs but also increase the visibility of the APO and our partners in this region.
To continue such partnerships, however, the APO will have to adopt a more flexible approach in implementing these collaborative projects. I seek in advance your cooperation and understanding when our partner organizations make special requests that are different from our normal project procedures.
Improving the visibility of the APO remains a priority area. We intend to use multiple platforms to raise our visibility among stakeholders and the public. We are testing the use of Facebook among participants and liaison officers and have been receiving positive feedback.
We also intend to embark on a major initiative to streamline processes and better engage participants, experts, and other stakeholders by capitalizing on technology. Through this initiative, we aim to allow greater sharing of information among member countries to improve communications and transparency as well as enhance the processes, effectiveness, and productivity of the APO.
To ensure that we are able to carry out our current and new programs successfully, we also need to improve the capability and strength of the Secretariat staff. I aim to be able to finalize the selection of candidates to fill vacancies in the professional service category very soon.
This WSM will be a valuable opportunity for me to engage with you to understand the needs and expectations of member countries more thoroughly. I would once again like to thank the Government of Fiji for its wonderful hospitality.