Dodwell's blog on High Level Policy Dialogue on Human Capacity Building in PNG

May 07, 2015

High Level Policy Dialogue on Human Capacity Building, PNG

For APEC meetings, Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is as exotic and remote as it gets. Not just because this is among the more developing of developing economies, but because it has rarely hosted any meetings in APEC’s 25 year history. I am sure someone will correct me, but by my reckoning, this week’s Human Resources high level meeting is just the second meeting PNG has ever hosted.
And going forward, we are going to need to get familiar with Port Moresby. The HRD meeting is very self consciously the launch of practical preparations for PNG hosting the APEC year in 2018. So this is not just about a set of policy discussions on regional manpower challenges. It is about learning meeting protocols. Learning about airport meet-and-greet arrangements. Learning about security – and heavens, I don’t recall any APEC destination where anxieties are as high over dangers facing delegates if they wander off from the hotel ‘security lock-down”. That puts paid to morning jogs, sadly.
For us in the business community, the learning curve has to be even steeper. Wayne Golding is already busy laying plans for ABAC2 in PNG in April next year. And I promise you, after dinner with him last night, he has some mighty exotic plans in store. He will be bringing new meaning to “smart casual” – and heaven knows what “fertility rituals” will be all about. After the exotic tribal dance entertainment of last night’s Gala Dinner, I can only guess what might be involved!
Given PNG’s limited experience as an APEC host, 2018 is going to be all about cooperation. Australia and New Zealand are already heavily engaged, and this year’s chair, the Philippines, has provided strong logistical support for this Human Resources meeting. This is not just because this year’s “inclusive growth” theme will draw heavily on improvements in skills development, improved education systems, mutual recognition of qualifications, and better management of labour movement around the region (a good home for ABAC’s Earn, Learn, Return initiative). There is also a clear empathy in the challenges PNG faces as a developing economy. To echo the challenges the Philippines constantly faces in protecting against typhoons and other natural disasters, Papua on cue had a 7.2 force earthquake on the day before our HR meeting. Mercifully, Port Moresby was far from the epicentre, and there was no noticeable tsunami. All we have suffered is unseasonally heavy rain, which only disrupted our group photo sessions.
Between now and 2018, much will need to be done. Few hotels have the facilities to host a full APEC Senior Officials Cluster, let alone a Leaders’ Meeting. Power cuts come three or four times a day. And internet services are patchy, to put it very politely. Perhaps the upcoming PNG-hosted Pacific Games will galvanise progress in these areas. By our ABAC meeting in April next year, progress will be clearer. Wayne Golding’s immense ABAC experience is about to be put fully to the test. Good luck Wayne.
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