UP Baguio opens virtual International Conference on Cordillera Studies

The University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), through the Cordillera Studies Center (CSC), officially opened the third International Conference on Cordillera Studies (ICCS3), 5 July 2021.

Held virtually via Zoom and simultaneous broadcast on Youtube, ICCS3 focuses on the theme “Indigenous Peoples and the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). The first day of the conference consisted of two parallel sessions with eight panels featuring paper presentations by academics and researchers from the Philippines and other countries.

In her opening message, UPB Chancellor, Dr. Corazon L. Abansi, related that by organizing this conference with the SDGs as the central theme, “the Cordillera Studies Center of UP Baguio performs its role as a research center mobilizing knowledge communities to seek solutions for sustainable development concerns.” This, according to the chancellor, increases the social impact of UP particularly in helping the country achieve the SDGs. Such a project achieves substantial and instrumental goals for the university and responds to the call for Quality Assurance.

Noting that the first two ICCS, held in 2008 and 2017, were successful in the scholarly discussion of recent developments, perspectives, approaches, and debates in the study of the Cordillera region and other indigenous communities, Abansi pointed out that the 3rd ICCS “takes a step further by directing the discourse on Cordillera Studies to move more towards social engagement in addition to knowledge production and scholarly exchange” by producing concrete ideas and workable solutions. In concluding her message, she encouraged and reminded all participants to collaborate and strive to achieve the SDGs and sustainable development for all, including indigenous peoples, and to foster inclusive development through fruitful conversations and exchange of innovative ideas.

In her welcome remarks, UPB Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and head of the CSC Board, Dr. Rosemary Gutierrez, conveyed that this virtual mode of the conference “enables a wide international and local participation despite mobility restrictions at this time,” making it a mixed blessing that enabled UPB to include and encourage the engagement of members of the public who would not have been able to join if the conference were conducted face-to-face.

Likewise, UP President, Prof. Danilo L. Concepcion, also delivered a message saying that organizing ICCS3 through an online venue has opened up the event to a broader global audience. He also emphasized that Indigenous Peoples are vital partners in the implementation of the SDGs and that conferences such as the ICCS “are valuable platforms for enlightened discussions, the presentation of data and research results, and most importantly, the sharing of experiences, struggles, and lessons learned.” In particular, according to Concepcion, through the ICCS3, people can “engage in dialogues with government partners, in civil society, in international agencies, and in communities, thereby drawing a more accurate map of where the indigenous peoples are concerning the 17 SDGs.”  He also pointed out UPB’s PhD in Indigenous Studies program as “undoubtedly a big step towards inclusiveness in support of sustainable development of indigenous peoples, particularly in the Cordillera region.”

The plenary speaker for the first day of ICCS3, Dr. Maria Assunta C. Cuyegkeng, walked the audience through the United Nation’s SDGs and highlighted the role and part of the Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups in the attainment of such goals. A professor at the Department of Leadership and Strategy of the John Gokongwei School of Management of the Ateneo de Manila University, Dr. Cuyegkeng presented her lecture titled “Localizing SDGs through Stakeholder Engagement and an Enabling Ecosystem.”

“It’s a real concern because achieving the SDGs really indicates how close we are to getting an acceptable quality of life for our people,” she added. Achieving safe, just, and sustainable space, according to Dr. Cuyegkeng, needs a delicate balance that can only be achieved when people talk and agree on a local level, thus it is important to localize SDGs. She further pointed out that it is important “to craft contextualized solutions according to local environments and develop enabling structures in the ecosystem, […] not just the natural ecosystem, but the multidimensional ecosystem which involves society, culture, politics, and so on.” Dr. Cuyegkeng is also the executive director of the ASEAN University Network on Ecological Education and Culture.

Concluding her presentation, Dr. Cuyegkeng gave a summary to achieve the SDGs: “The strategy is to localize and to empower Indigenous peoples’ local communities. SDGs remind us of the need to create a safe, just, and sustainable space for all, and we are guided by meeting social foundations and going with the planetary boundaries or our ecological ceiling.” SDGs then need to be brought to the level of the needs of the communities themselves and this can be achieved by making the groups themselves empowered in the process of identifying, analyzing priority SDGs for their community, crafting their solutions, and developing an enabling ecosystem which will support the entire process. The recordings of the plenary and parallel sessions are accessible online. For more information,  please visit bit.ly/VirtualICCS3.

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