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APEC 2021 by the numbers

A composite image of several family photos taken during the SOM 3 cluster in August and September.

16 September  2021

If you were to watch each meeting held so far in APEC 2021, back-to-back, it would be like watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy 85 times¹, with a cast of nearly 8000.

APEC – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation – is made up of 21 economies, whose officials and leaders usually meet in person throughout the year. But New Zealand’s blockbuster year of hosting is entirely virtual, and that’s seen officials racking up the screen time.

Between the year’s first meeting on 9 February and the 262nd on September 6, there have been 786 hours of virtual meetings, or nearly 33 days straight.  Not counted in that tally are the other 100-plus test meetings, informal meetings and bilateral meetings that happen on the periphery.

There have been meetings on food security, others involving the region’s finance ministers and business leaders, and talks between trade ministers. A first-of-its-kind informal meeting between APEC leaders happened in July, which followed another that pioneered work around indigenous economies. Each meeting involves a heavy contingent of officials and diplomats representing each economy.

From Russia to China, Papua New Guinea to Peru, these economies are spread across 11 time zones, at times spanning a 17-hour difference. Meetings are capped at 3 hours, so people aren’t stuck in meetings all night. And to prevent the burden of late-night meetings falling on a few economies, the start times alternate between 2pm and 11pm (NZT), moving to 3pm and 11.59pm in Daylight Savings Time.

More than 7616 delegates have attended to register at least one meeting through the year, and more than 400 media from around the world have registered to cover related events. 

But scheduling meetings needs careful choreography, especially when they’re happening simultaneously and involving more than 100 people.  

Up to nine meetings have happened in day under Senior Officials’ Meeting 3 (SOM 3), and six meetings have been held at the same time during SOM 1 and SOM 2.

Senior Officials’ Meetings are a big undertaking. They lay the ground work for ministers’ meetings, track progress and are the forum where officials bring to life the declarations and directives from the region's leaders and ministers.

When SOM 3 wrapped in early September, nearly 100 meetings had taken place, involving 3707 attendees. Discussions ranged from COVID-19 recovery, trade, sustainability and digital inclusion.

From a small control room heaving with monitors – and then from kitchen tables, sofas, and home offices during New Zealand’s latest COVID lockdown – the APEC NZ delegate services team are the ones who make sure everyone was where they needed to be; no small feat when there are a lot of people on screen.

The team’s busiest virtual meeting of the year happened during SOM 3, when 189 attendees took part in the second day of the SOM 3 plenary. Day one of the Plenary had 187 attendees. SOM 1’s Plenary comes in third place with 165 attendees, closely followed by the highly successful Ministers’ Responsible for Trade Meeting in June, when 164 people were on screen.

With 80-plus official meetings (and many drafting sessions and test sessions on top of that) the stats will soar even higher before New Zealand’s APEC blockbuster meeting marathon wraps up in November.

¹ Theatrical runtime. You would need to watch the extended LOTR trilogy 69 times to match the hourly total of APEC meetings. 

- APEC New Zealand

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