On November 23, 2020, ambassadors and representatives to Taiwan from Austronesian Forum members gathered in Taipei for the 2020 Executive Council Meeting. Participating member delegates acknowledged the achievements made by the Forum in various working projects. In addition to confirming Papua New Guinea as an official member of the Austronesian Forum, the 2021 Forum assembly is also confirmed to be held in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
During the Executive Council meeting held on September 30, 2019 in Palau, it was decided that the Forum assembly and Executive Council meeting be held in Hawaii in June 2020. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the pandemic continued to spread globally, therefore, the 2020 meeting was instead held in Taiwan and on a smaller scale.
Despite the impact of the disease, 14 countries participated in the meeting. Among which, 3 countries participated for the first time, including Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Canada. We look forward to more countries joining the big family of the Austronesian Forum, so that we can join hands in promoting the development of the Austronesian peoples.
The 2019 Executive Council meeting took place at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center in Palau on September 30, 2019. The representative from the Republic of China (Taiwan) gave a briefing on the five major strategies and sixteen undertakings outlined in the CIP’s Six-Year Plan for the Austronesian Forum, all of which were approved by delegates of each member in a unanimous decision. In addition, the Executive Council granted Belize observer status. With the Six-Year Plan in place, the Forum is ensured a stable budget and a dedicated workforce to work towards a clear set of goals, which in turn will enable members to engage in closer multilateral cooperation, promote the preservation of Austronesian languages and cultures, and encourage the cultivation of human resources and the development of the cultural and creative industries.
During the reactivation ceremony of the Austronesian Forum, which had been suspended for more than ten years, the reinauguration of the Forum’s Palau headquarters was witnessed by Palau’s Vice President Raynold Oilouch as well as the Queen of Palau, Bilung Gloria Gibbons Salii; Republic of China (Taiwan) Ambassador to Palau Wallace M. G. Chow; and representatives from all other members. The Palau headquarters will serve as the base for future participation in important international meetings and events by the Austronesian Forum.
The August 1, 2018 reactivation ceremony of the Austronesian Forum was graced with the presence of the nine original founding members (the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, the Republic of the Philippines, and New Zealand) as well as four new members that joined in 2018 (Malaysia, the Republic of Indonesia, Hawaii, and Guam). President Tsai Ing-wen of the Republic of China (Taiwan), former President Hilda Cathy Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and former Governor Eddie Baza Calvo of the territory of Guam were in attendance to show their support.
At the roundtable meeting, representatives deliberated on and signed the Charter of the Austronesian Forum, discussed future cooperation plans, and agreed unanimously that the Republic of China (Taiwan) would serve as the first ever Chair of the Executive Council. It was also decided that the 2019 Executive Council Meeting would take place in the Republic of Palau.
On May 4, 2018, representatives from relevant states met to discuss the August 1 reactivation of the Austronesian Forum, which had been suspended for more than 10 years. Every representative present was highly supportive of reactivating the Forum as a permanent governing body for cooperative development projects in the Austronesian region.
To foster substantive exchanges under the auspices of the Forum, the representatives suggested the inclusion of topics like NGO participation, climate change, community empowerment, ethnic diversity, traditional leadership, and expanding the number of participating countries as potential future projects. Several task forces were set up under the Forum to tackle specific issues of international cooperation. In addition, Hawaii offered to host the 2020 Austronesian Forum Annual Assembly alongside the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FESTPAC), which is also scheduled to take place in Hawaii in the summer of the same year.
On August 4, 2016, the 46th General Assembly and 80th Council Meeting of the APPU took place in the Republic of Palau. Six draft resolutions were discussed in the meeting, during which then legislator Kolas Yotaka proposed a motion on behalf of Taiwan titled “A Call for APPU Member States to Cooperate in the Establishment of the Austronesian Forum.” Supported by legislators Huang Chao-shun and Wang Hui-mei, the motion was unanimously adopted, and the Declaration of the Austronesian Forum on Cooperation signed in 2008 by Taiwan and the eight founding members was included in the appendices of the resolution and in the official meeting minutes.
The First Executive Council Meeting was convened at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center in Palau on April 7, 2008, and the Inaugural Ceremony of the Austronesian Forum was held on the following day. The Declaration of the Austronesian Forum on Cooperation was signed, setting forth the following responsibilities for the Austronesian Forum:
(1) Organizing conferences and developing plans to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between Austronesian communities, academic institutions, and NGOs;
(2) Establishing a training program for human resources development and talent cultivation;
(3) Bolstering cooperation and exchanges between the Austronesian Peoples;
(4) Committing to the development of the Austronesian Peoples;
(5) Promoting social, cultural, and economic cooperation in the Austronesian region and the protection and preservation of its environment;
(6) Promoting the participation of the Austronesian Peoples in Asia-Pacific and other international organizations.
At the Second Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit on October 12, 2007, then President Mr. Chen Shui-bian signed the Majuro Declaration. Article 6.4 of the Declaration states: “Heads of states in attendance recognize the connection between Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and the peoples of the Pacific islands as regards their common Austronesian culture, support the establishment of a preparatory office for the Austronesian Forum in Taipei in August 2007, and agree to establish a permanent Headquarters in Palau as well as branch offices in five other countries as soon as possible in compliance with UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and cherish the values of Austronesian cultures.”
On July 31, 2007, the CIP invited representatives from the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the Republic of the Philippines to the Austronesian Forum Planning Committee Meeting. Article 1 of the Meeting Resolutions states that “the establishment of the Austronesian Forum is the unanimous consensus of all representatives present.”
On September 12, 2006, Palau’s President Thomas Esang Remengesau Jr., then Republic of China (Taiwan) President Chen Shui-bian, then Marshall Islands President Kessai Note, then Kiribati President Anote Tong, then Nauru President Ludwig Scotty, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, and then Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia signed the Palau Declaration at the First Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit . Article 4, Paragraph H of the Declaration states: “Preservation of Culture: In consideration of the cultural similarities and differences treasured by Taiwan and its Pacific Allies, Leaders agree to construct an Austronesian forum and relevant institutions to promote and encourage the research, preservation, education and innovation of common and diverse indigenous cultures. ”
During the Assembly of Austronesian Leaders on December 9–10, 2002, a unanimous decision to establish the Austronesian Leaders’ Forum was reached. The delegates signed the Taipei Declaration, Article 5 of which states that “a framework shall be established and actively maintained to serve as a foundation for sustainable development in Austronesia.”
Among the signees were delegates from the Republic of Fiji, the Republic of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Hawaii, the Republic of Vanuatu, Australia, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).