The International Austronesian Conference got underway Nov. 13 in Taipei City, reaffirming the government’s commitment to promoting the development of indigenous peoples throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as well as increasing global awareness of key issues impacting their societies and strengthening regional links.
Co-organized by the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples and Ministry of Culture, the 15th edition of the annual event involves leading academics and researchers from 13 countries and territories. They are scheduled to deliver keynote speeches in line with the conference’s theme Cultural Heritage and Community Empowerment—Taiwan’s Southbound Connection, and conduct roundtables on topics spanning culture, economics, politics and society.
Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said at the conference’s opening ceremony that events such as these facilitate greater understanding among cultures, as well as lay the foundation for deeper cooperation and more frequent exchanges.
Taiwan’s indigenous peoples share longstanding ties with their counterparts throughout the Austronesian-speaking region, he said, adding that these were highlighted during the recent official visit of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to Taiwan's diplomatic allies Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands in the Pacific.
According to Chen, the government is working to safeguard the cultures of Taiwan’s 16 officially recognized tribes through initiatives like the Indigenous Languages Development Act. Promulgated June 14, the legislation affords indigenous languages national status and seeks to deliver historical justice while promoting development, preservation and usage measures.
Echoing these remarks, CIP Minister Icyang Parod (夷將‧拔路兒) said the conference is an ideal platform for scholars from home and abroad to share expertise and knowledge. This process of academic exchange plays an invaluable role in influencing government policymaking and ensuring the culture of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples is showcased on the international stage.
Icyang also took the opportunity to unveil government plans to establish a national museum in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City dedicated to preserving indigenous cultures and Austronesian languages. It is expected that the facility will further enhance Taiwan’s cultural diversity and assist in cultivating connections with the peoples of the Austronesian region, he said.
In welcoming the announcement, MOC Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said the museum will contribute to enriching Austronesian discourse and raise Taiwan’s cultural profile in the region. Protecting the intangible cultural heritage of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples is of paramount concern for the ministry, she added.
According to the CIP, the conference reopens Nov. 14 in southeastern Taiwan’s Taitung County for the final four days of the program. Activities include a banquet and tours of National Museum of Prehistory and local tribal communities.