It is an enormous pleasure to announce that the sixth ICSD-AP biennial international conference was glamorously held on the 29th and 30th of September 2016 at Oak-Ray Regency Hotel in Kandy Sri Lanka and concluded with a high-note of success. The conference was jointly organized by the ICSD-AP and Department of Sociology of the University of Peradeniya, and sponsored by the Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare.
There were 79 scholarly and practice-based research papers across a range of areas under the key theme of “Social Work, Social Development and Sustainable Development Goals” presented at the conference while the entire attendance mounted over 3 hundred participants. Among them were world-renowned scholars, vastly experienced practitioners in the broad fields of social work and social development, high-skilled program planners and policy makers, researchers, students etc. All public, private, non-government, including INGOs, and community sector organizations participated and country-wise, there were delegations from 7 different countries in the Asia-pacific region, the USA and Australia.
The conference deliberations were magnificently kicked off by an intellectually thought-provoking, yet pragmatically far-reaching keynote presentation by Prof. Vijayan K Pillai from the Department of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington, one of the world authorities in the field of social work and reproductive health especially in the Third World context, a person with a solid intellectual glamour and a charming and soft-speaking manner. Prof. Vijyan’s presentation, based on his hard work through his research over the years to explore linkage between Social Development and Wellbeing, convinced everyone in the audience that it is social development that enhances wellbeing which in turn can be quantified and measured.
The Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare demonstrated, with pinpoint exactness, how Sri Lanka have over decades successfully been able to bring a once two-digit poverty rate in the country down to a one-digit figure, almost 6%. It drew keen attention from everyone, especially from the international delegations in the audience. The lessons from Sri Lanka’s successful poverty alleviation program and other welfare services to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals and groups in the country have already gone around the world.
There were four plenary sessions across one and a half days of deliberations and they all consisted of 23 concurrent sessions while four papers were presented in each. Until the conclusion of the conference in the evening of the second day, 30th September, participation in both mainstream as well as concurrent sessions was significantly high. A majority of research papers demonstrated an application of a balanced approach to infer insights into program planning and policy development.
The conference papers had been invited to be presented in any of the three main languages in the country. As per feedback from many of the participants, it would have been the first of this nature in the history of the University of Perdeniya. The organizers had placed their utmost attention to the fact that the rich social and cultural diversity of the country was well reflected in the conference.
There were opportunities for everyone to sit around the tables, taste a beautiful Sri Lankan tea, share a meal, and then enjoy a few items of glamorous cultural dancing in the dusk. They all, even the food, again reflected our rich cultural diversity in the country. The third day morning, many of the participants flocked together at the hotel front-yard and joined a sight-seeing tour. They all spent the whole morning in a Child Welfare Centre, mingled with kids, listened to the workers there and enjoyed the beautiful lunch they offered. In the late afternoon, they visited the sacred Temple of Tooth in Kandy, worshiped and received blessings, and then walked through the busy streets of the scenic city of Kandy, dropped in to the venders and bought a few souvenirs. Everyone, both national and international, left Kandy full of fond memories of thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating discussions, interactions with remarkable people, new friendships, the scenic garden University of Peradeniya and gracious hospitality of this charming Island of Sri Lanka.
Dr. Sarath Gamlath Department of Sociology University of Peradeniya