I was in the depths of despair when PNG Attitude came to help
2018: An unsettled year for PNG

Empathy & collaboration key to shared global growth & prosperity

Davis Cousar
Davis Cousar

DAVIS COUSAR | Independent Mail

ANDERSON, SOUTH CAROLINA USA - It was 9 pm Monday in Australia’s Brisbane airport, and we were headed to Papua New Guinea for the 2018 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

The seven of us, all Furman University students and faculty, had been travelling for two days and were looking forward to getting our bags and checking into our hotel to take a warm shower, change clothes and sleep before our flight to PNG the next morning.

We waited at baggage claim for our luggage … and waited … and waited. Our bags didn’t appear. The woman at the service desk said our bags were nowhere to be found, but she assured us they would be located and placed on the next flight to PNG.

As it turns out, when we arrived the next afternoon, our bags weren’t there.

The APEC Summit began in 1989 as an informal meeting between 12 Asia-Pacific economies seeking to increase trade and collaboration in the region. Today, APEC consists of 21 Pacific-Rim economies that work together to create inclusive and sustainable growth.

Each November, leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors convene for the annual APEC summit in a major city of an APEC economy. Last year, APEC was held in Da Nang, Vietnam. This year, it was in Port Moresby.

In conjunction with the CEO Summit, APEC hosts a ‘Voices of the Future’ Program where youth delegates from each of the 21 member economies come together to learn about each other’s economies, discuss important issues and draft a declaration expressing their shared values.

This year, five Furman students were selected to represent the United States as youth delegates, and our trip was made possible by the Richard W Riley Institute at Furman. 

All of the events at APEC required business attire, which is a problem when your luggage has travelled elsewhere.

Thankfully, though, some of our fellow student delegates from Australia, New Zealand and Chinese-Taipei offered to lend us clothes. I was even loaned the ‘business boots’ that are currently trending in Australia.

Perhaps this situation can serve as an analogy for what international collaboration could and should look like.

We arrived at the conference and were honest about our shortcomings and flaws. Individuals from other countries were able to use their resources to help us solve our problem, and as a result, the entire APEC Summit was better off for it.

(Not only would we have been embarrassed without business wear, but, given that we’d already spent two days traveling in our original clothes, whoever was sitting beside us would have suffered as well.)

If countries could similarly come together with a desire to understand and help one another create the best world possible, international relations would be filled with more altruism and less avarice.

Unfortunately, this was not the case at this year’s APEC conference; in fact, it was the most divisive to date. For the first time in history, the APEC economies could not agree on a joint statement, and the summit ended in disarray due to rising tensions between the United States and China.

For many, this was cause for severe disappointment. Yet, we students have a different perspective.

The APEC Youth Forum was filled with delegates who believe that empathy and collaboration are key to creating a shared future of global growth and prosperity. We learned from and were challenged by the diverse ideas and opinions of our new-found friends and colleagues.

If this sentiment of compassion and empathy continues — the same sentiment that led delegates from around the world to share clothes with strangers — then there is hope, hope that a world can exist where international leaders work together to create a shared future with inclusion and the opportunity for prosperity for all.

And what about that lost luggage? Our bags finally arrived after the first day of the conference, so we learned something about patience as well.

Davis Cousar, a Furman University junior from Anderson, is a double major in politics and international affairs and economics


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Simon Davidson

Beautiful observation. To give to others more needier than us, enriches life.The wealthy nations should not be arrogant because we are all part of the web of humanity. We all need each other.True understanding and sharing enriches lives.

Gabriel Ramoi

It would be great to hear from the PNG Youth Delegates at APEC 2018.

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