Conference Highlights: Asia Pacific RAC in Manila

By Fred Wright and Sophia Qiao, AP-RAC Co-Chairs

The AP-RAC (Asia Pacific Regional Advisory Committee) held its 4th annual conference in Manila from 16-18 October 2019. Sixteen members and two guests were warmly and generously hosted by the Office of the Ombudsperson of the Asia Development bank (ADB).  

Wayne Blair, Ombudsperson, ADB together with his colleagues Gigi Alejandro, Arlene Pantua and Erson Palermo created a comprehensive and stimulating agenda dealing with a range of important contemporary issues confronting Omuds practitioners in the Asia Pacific Region.

Over the course of three days, participants dealt with sexual harassment in organisations (facilitated by Lily Xu, United Technologies); the ombuds' relationship with formal processes (Wayne Blair, ADB); the challenges of working in geographically dispersed and multicultural environments (Caroline Wanyonyi and Faye Antolin, International Committee of the Red Cross); and about the importance of personal and professional development through a regular, structured supervision program that supports ethical and reflective practice (Fred Wright, Govt of Victoria). Herb Waye, Ombudsman for  the Internet Corporation for assigned Numbers and Names, also facilitated an interesting and contemporary session about online dispute resolution; Gurmeet Kaur, Head Ombudsperson for Home Credit India, discussed the ombud’s roles around the evolving dynamics of Indian women’s empowerment.

Participants agreed that one of the highlights of the conference was the time spent considering ombuds interventions through a range of stimulating case discussions and role plays that were ably facilitated by experienced regional ombuds Susan John (United Nations), Dolores Gomez-Moran (World Health Organization), and Wayne Blair (ADB).

The ADB were very generous in hosting all aspects of the conference and participants were able to gain an understanding and appreciation of not only the important work of the ADB, but also the complex organisation behind this important work. The conference began with a presentation about the global and regional outlook of the Asia Pacific Area, whilst participants had the opportunity to share a wonderful lunch with many members of the ADB Board of Directors. Following the session dealing with Ombuds relationship with formal processes, participants had another lunch opportunity to continue discussions with members of two of ADB’s formal investigative processes.

The social side of things was also generously provided for with participants lucky to participate in the organisation wide, Ombuds sponsored happy hour where the ADB community came together after work to celebrate International Conflict Resolution Day. A number of very sociable dinners celebrated the local cuisine and those lucky to stay over the weekend took a trip down the coast to a fascinating historical resort on the beach.

The final event of the conference dealt with important challenges for the AP-RAC around positioning the committee to make it as effective as it can be for current members and encouraging as it can be to potential new members.

As the host Wayne Blair succinctly summarised;

“It is now upon us to take advantage of the momentum, collegial and collaborative “good feeling”, and energy we experienced in Manila and channel it into expanding the work that we do and making the Asia Pacific region the thought leaders in our professions”.

Work will now commence to determine the location and structure of the AP-RAC 2020 Conference. We cannot wait to see you all there.

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