IFLA APR Congress 2019: Event Summary
The 2019 IFLA APR Congress was held in Cebu, the Philippines from 7-9 November, with a theme focused on engaging communities with sustainable development: "Commonssense". It began with a wonderful opening ceremony about the spirit of place, featuring an indigenous ritual to bring peace and constructive energy to the people attending the event. Floating scarves, a gentle gong and a subtle singing bowl slowly moved around the entire hall, ensuring that the attendees were surrounded with positivity to set the scene for the rest of the congress.
Opening addresses by the congress chair, a department of tourism director, the PALA president and the IFLA APR president all set the scene for a focus on the relationships between biodiversity, landscapes and people, and the pressures on those relationships from the twin threats of developmental imperatives and climate change. The first plenary presentation provided a key baseline for later speakers, where Theresa Lim, the Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity spoke about the benefits of considering Green Infrastructure (GI) for biodiversity conservation, especially when community spaces were integral to the structure of that GI. This was followed by a series of presentations about land-based pollution threats to marine ecosystems, with the morning session bought to a close with an inspirational presentation from Yossapon Boonsom, the director of a landscape architecture practice in Bangkok. His richly illustrated contribution to the congress detailed a vision for green community spaces to form the backbone of 'nature in the city', bringing the natural environment into the city, to its residents and communities.
A series of parallel presentations in the afternoon provided a chance for participants to enjoy a wide cross-section of speakers and topics, as well as a presentation from the Professional Regulations Commission on Transborder Practice in the APR. The relationships between the quality control aspects of the Commission's work, and the IFLA-approved regional programme accreditation framework were discussed in some detail, with the potential to consider how both of these might support or enhance landscape education programmes in the Philippines.
Day two began with a further series of parallel presentations, including a more detailed review of the IFLA APR accreditation system for programmes of landscape architecture, concluding with a closing keynote address in the afternoon from Dr Simon Bell of the OPENspace Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh. Simon presented a thought-provoking overview of some of the challenges and opportunities for landscape architects moving into the future, with his own personal vision of where the profession might be headed.
Another wonderful ceremony to close the congress and hand the IFLA APR flag to Malaysia for the 2020 event brought the congress to the finish line, with the final highlight being a heart-felt song from Dr Nor Atiah, the ILAM delegate, an ebullient encapsulation of the positive energy flowing through the two-day event. All attendees were strongly encouraged to attend the next IFLA APR congress, combined with the IFLA world event, in Penang next year!