World leaders come to campus Nov. 25

by Gavin Wilson

Staff writer

When world leaders arrive on campus for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Economic Leaders' Meeting Nov. 25, the international spotlight will shine more brightly on UBC than it has in years.

But few campus issues in recent years have also stirred up as much passionate debate, especially among students.

With as many as 3,500 media expected for APEC, many believe the event will give UBC an international profile similar in scope to that brought by Michael Smith's Nobel Prize and the 1993 Clinton-Yeltsin Summit.

The APEC meeting is also expected to bolster UBC's position as a top Canadian institution in Asia Pacific affairs and strengthen links with Asian and other APEC economies.

"UBC's role goes far beyond providing a venue for the leaders' meeting," said Chris Brown of the UBC-APEC Co-ordination staff. "The strength of the university is that it can act as a resource for the federal government to increase Canada's connections with the Asia Pacific."

There are other advantages coming to the university as well, he said, including a series of university-supported APEC initiatives to benefit students, teaching and scholarly research at UBC.

The UBC meeting is meant to provide a retreat where leaders can meet in relative isolation. A similar retreat was held last year near Manila.

UBC was also favoured because of its symbolic location facing the Pacific.

The campus, especially students, has reacted strongly to APEC's presence -- ranging from the agitprop theatre and civil disobedience of APEC-Alert to active support from some 200 students who have volunteered to help with APEC activities.

But mostly, there has been debate and discussion. Issues of trade, human rights, the environment and corporate influence on society are hot topics from campus coffee shops to any number of organized panels and debates.

The AMS sponsored a five-week Student Summit on Asia Pacific, which wrapped up recently after an ambitious program that tackled topics such as women's issues, labour, the environment, human rights, multiculturalism, trade liberalization, career opportunities and Canada's role in the Asia Pacific.

On a smaller scale, the APEC-University Forum has sponsored discussions at Green College aimed at increasing awareness of APEC and related issues.

The UBC branch of AIESEC, an international student organization supported by business and industry, held a Youth APEC '97 Forum in October to discuss relations with the Asia Pacific and related topics.

Just recently, the International Relations Student Association has set up an APEC Information Centre in SUB. They will host a panel discussion on Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. in the Asian Centre auditorium.

As well, about 20 UBC faculty members and graduate students have created the APEC Research and Information Network, based in the Institute of Asian Research. They are involved in planning the Peoples' Summit, a parallel conference to APEC to be held Nov. 17-22 at the Plaza of Nations.

The expertise of other faculty members has been called upon as they prepare documentation and background materials for government ministers and senior advisers in the lead-up to the leaders' meeting. Still other faculty members conduct research or consult for APEC governments.

See also traffic, parking and transit effects at UBC on Nov. 25