Shisla Macleod on representing New Zealand at the 2021 APEC: Voices of the Future

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YPN Event's Co-lead - Shisla Macleod recounts her experience at the 2021 APEC: Voices of the Future Youth Event. 

Shisla completed a BCOM in Economics and International Business at the University of Auckland. She was granted the Prime Ministers Scholarship for Latin America to participate in the Tecnológico de Monterrey’s iWinterMX programme, in which she studied at four different Mexico campuses. She has also been granted a number of scholarships by the University of Auckland’s international office, including for the participation in the Programme on Brazilian studies through the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Currently, she is one of the 22 graduates in the first ever intake of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities graduate program.

"As someone who grew up in Brazil, backpacked South East Asia, studied in Mexico, travelled the world and lives in New Zealand, the international sphere has always been where I have felt comfortable.

However, my experiences have not all been easy, and being considered a ‘foreigner’ in New Zealand was, at times, tough (I say foreigner because I felt like one, having moved to Aotearoa when I was thirteen - though I am also a Kiwi). But my experiences helped shape who I am, and made me passionate about fighting for diversity and inclusion. It was this passion that inspired me to apply to represent New Zealand rangatahi on the world stage - because Aotearoa is full of people just like me- young, ethnic, female, and that often don’t get to have their voices heard on decisions that matter the most.

I had been working on an APEC project for my work (Bottled Lightning: Pandemic-driven Customs Innovation will Prepare the Region for the Next Crises | APEC) and I had a sense of what the forum was like. I knew it would be perfect for meeting young people from the region, learning from each other, openly sharing ideas and reaching consensus on what issues matter to us the most. Importantly, it was also the first year in history that Voices of the Future delegates would get to hand over the declaration to the APEC Chair. This presented a unique opportunity to try to make a difference to current and future generations.

I was very honoured to have been selected, alongside some wonderful New Zealand rangatahi - Lit Wei Chin, a climate change and sustainability executive for Auckland Unlimited; Jess Jenkins, the national co-ordinator at Race Unity Aotearoa; and Sophie Handford, Kāpiti Coast District Councillor and climate activist. We are all very different in many ways - from our upbringings, our passions and our goals - but it was these different perspectives that allowed us to represent youth across New Zealand. It was also our diverse strengths that inspired us to focus on the ‘Future for All’ topic.

But what I soon came to realise was that what was important for APEC were not our differences, but what brought us together. In a region with over a billion young people from 21 different economies of all levels of development, it was mind-blowing just how much we had in common. In such a globalised world, the issues that are facing us don’t have borders - we are all worried about climate change, COVID-19, digitalisation, quality education, etc. And I have to say, my main highlight was definitely seeing how everyone brought a different perspective to such topics. It made me appreciate how many different facets a problem may have, and how challenging it may be to solve it. It also emphasised that if we are serious about solving an issue that faces us all, we need to take everyone into account. Including young people.

In the declaration, we made a series of recommendations to APEC leaders and decision makers, requesting that they:

  • build resilience and ensure equal access to vital medical resources;
  • improve access to education via technology;
  • push ahead with sustainability and develop connectivity; and
  • ensure the wellbeing of our environment, society, and future generations.

You can read the whole declaration here: APEC Voices of the Future (

The main thing that stood out to me the most, however, was the request to be heard. Young people across New Zealand, APEC, and the world, are sick of not being listened to and bearing the consequences of decisions we were never involved in. This mutual feeling led us to advocate through our declaration that Voices of the Future should be recognised as a part of APEC that guides priorities and advises leaders on decision making. 

But whether it be through APEC or any other platform, I will continue to push for youth voices to be heard. And I hope you will too."

Written by Shisla Macleod (30/11/21). 

This entry was posted on 16 Dec 2021