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14 countries attend 2020 Austronesian Forum in Taipei

(photo courtesy of the Council of Indigenous Peoples) 

(photo courtesy of the Council of Indigenous Peoples) 

Representatives from 14 countries gathered Monday (Nov. 23) in Taipei for an annual meeting to discuss the promotion and preservation of Austronesian languages and cultures.

Speaking during the 2020 Executive Council of the Austronesian Forum, Icyang Parod, chair of Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), noted that the forum was originally established in 2008 during the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration by Taiwan and other Austronesian countries to discuss ways to promote linguistic and cultural exchanges between Austronesian nations.

The forum, however, was suspended after Taiwan's transition of power to the Kuomintang (KMT) later that year.

After the DPP regained power in May 2018, however, the forum was jointly reactivated by 12 countries in the Pacific region on Aug. 1, 2018 -- Indigenous Peoples' Day.

This year's annual executive council meeting was originally set to be held in June in Hawaii but was rescheduled to be held in Taipei Monday instead on a smaller scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the CIP chief.

This year's meeting was attended for the first time by representatives from Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Canada.

Among them, Papua New Guinea has already formally applied to join the forum as an official member, he added.

The remaining countries that took part in Monday's meeting were Taiwan, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Palau, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the U.S.

In his speech, Icyang Parod said that although the COVID-19 pandemic has put many projects and plans on hold, the forum is expected to continue its efforts next year with funding under Taiwan's six-year project from 2020 to 2025 for the Austronesian Forum with the aim of preserving Austronesian language and culture, cultivating talent and boosting Austronesia's industrial development.

During the meeting, the consensus was reached that the forum's general assembly next year will be held in the Marshall Islands in the second half of 2021.