Frequently Asked Questions

The International Geographical Union (IGU) is an international, non-governmental, professional organization devoted to the development of the discipline of Geography.

The purposes of the IGU are primarily to promote Geography through initiating and coordinating geographical research and teaching in all countries of the world.  Its work is conducted through the instruments of its National Committees, Commissions and Task Forces.

The IGU hosts the International Geographical Congress every four years and also promotes regional conferences and other meetings that further of the objectives of the Union.  The IGU also facilitates the participation of geographers in the global community of scientists through its formal affiliation as a Member Union within both the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

Formal ‘membership’ of the IGU is by affiliated countries only and represents the geographical community in that country as a whole (see section on IGU National Committees).  Nevertheless, individual affiliation to the IGU is possible via one of its research Commissions.

Joining them is actually very easy; it is free and it is without any commitment.  The IGU now has some 41 ‘Commissions’ – these are groupings of geographers who are interested in particular elements of the discipline – say Climatology or Urban Geography or Population Geography. Each commission has its own steering committee and organises conferences and workshops (often around major IGU events but not always), distribute newsletters containing information related to the topic including of course the news of any upcoming meetings, and publish books and special issues of journals related to the topic.

Anyone can get involved with one or more of the commissions totally free of charge and without commitment- simply write an email to the appropriate commission chair and let them know you would like to be put on their list of corresponding members.  You can find a full list of all the commissions with details of contact persons and their own website addresses etc. on the IGU home page – follow the links to ‘Commissions’

Commissions and Task Forces are research bodies of the IGU that cover a very wide range of research topics within the discipline of Geography.

The  IGU  Statues  includes  a  whole  section  which  is  concerned  with  the Commissions. These are the key points:

 Paragraph VI, A

Background goals — Commissions shall be established for the

study of a specific problem or for the accomplishment of a task which requires international collaboration.

 Paragraph VI, A

The mission — Commissions shall promote individual and group

research work, encourage the exchange of relevant documents and information, and organize conferences, meetings and, where appropriate, field excursions, both between Congresses and during International Geographical Congresses.

Paragraph VI, B

The establishment proposal — The establishment of a new Commission may be proposed by a member country or by the Executive Committee.

 Paragraph V, H, 6

The approval of proposal — The approval of Commissions to examine defined geographical problems.

 Paragraph VI, D

The management fulcrum — A Commission shall consist of a Chair and a Steering Committee normally consisting of not more than ten other members.

 Paragraph VI, I

Reporting — Each Commission shall prepare a concise report on

its work which should be submitted to the Secretary-General for the Executive Committee at least nine months before the next ordinary meeting of the General Assembly.

 Task Forces are established from time to time to pursue specific objectives of the IGU.  It is specified that the IGU Executive Committee may decide about «the establishment of special or temporary committees or task forces for particular tasks». In short, the Commissions and Task Forces differ essentially because the Commission carries out investigations on an extended subject area, while the Task Force is established to pursue a specific objective, which may be concerned with research, education or other purposes.  The proposal for the establishment of a Commission is to be addressed to the Secretary-General. In principle, the proposal for the establishment of a Task Force does not need such a process because it may arise during the EC meeting discussions.

Anyone can get involved with one or more of the commissions totally free of charge and without commitment- simply write an email to the appropriate commission chair and let them know you would like to be put on their list of corresponding members.  You can find a full list of all the commissions with details of contact persons and their own website addresses etc. on the IGU home page – follow the links to ‘Commissions’

The proposal for the establishment of a Commission should design the research body accurately, in such a way as to provide a comprehensive and clear view of the role that the body will play in the IGU scientific activity. Each Commission and Task Force is linked to the EC through a Vice-President, who serves as liaison person. The essential role of this Vice-President includes:

  • helping the Commission and the Task Force to operate its programme;
  • participating in the scientific events of these bodies;
  • identifying possible linkage between Commissions and Task Forces;
  • promoting  the  involvement  of  the  Commissions  and  Task  Force  in  international programmes and projects;
  • providing any other useful collaboration and assistance. 

The establishment procedure of a Commission includes three steps:

Step 1 — A proposal is developed initially by a National Committee or other appropriate grouping, including any person or persons that may be configured as pertaining to be a «country member», to the Executive Committee;

Step 2 — The proposal is evaluated by the Executive Committee and, where the existence of the required organisational and scientific requisites is checked and evaluated positively, the proposal is approved and, as a result, the Commission is established.

Further details on these procedures can be obtained from the Secretary-General and Treasurer

According to Paragraph II, B of the Statutes, applications for full membership «may be made through a committee for the IGU, a principal academy, a Research Council, or some other similar institution, or through scientific societies or an association of such institutions or societies, or, in special cases, through an appropriate government department».

The full member acquires the status of IGU National Committee, which includes the voting right in the General Assembly and by postal ballot. The application for full membership is to be addressed to The Secretariat (see the above co-ordinates).

The application should consist of the following sections:

1. Presentation of the body applying for full membership — This Section should aim at demonstrating that the applying body has the basic requisites required by the IGU Statutes, namely that of representing the national geographical community as a whole.

2. List of bodies and individuals which have joined the applying body — This section aims at showing how ample is the audience which the applying body benefit s from in the local framework.

3. Personal data and concise CVs of the persons designated to serve as President and Secretary of the National Committee — This section should show the scientific quality of those persons that are going to serve as liaisons between the local geographical context and the EC and General Assembly (GA).

4. The co-ordinates of the headquarters of the National Committee (address, telephone and fax numbers, e-mail, URL) — This information should show that an essential organisational basis for interacting with the EC and GA is available.

5. The category of affiliation fee — which the National Committee, if established, intends to be included in.

Upon a proposal from the EC, the General Assembly decides about the candidacy to full membership.

Applying for associate membership

According to the IGU Statutes, the associate member consists of a group of geographers who are not provided by the requisites for applying for full membership but they are willing to make efforts towards this target. In order to help them to move towards the acquisition of the full status, no affiliation fee is required from and, as a consequence, no voting rights are attributed to, this second-rank category. Therefore the condition of associate member is transitory.

The application for associate membership must be addressed to the Secretariat.

The application should include:

  1. The presentation of the group of applying geographers, including the personal data (name, affiliation, address, telephone an d fax, e-mail and URL) of each of them;
  2. The description of the reasons and motivation which have induced the group to apply;
  3. The specification of the assistance that the IGU EC may provide to help the associate member to move towards the acquisition of the status of full member.

Upon a proposal from the EC, the General Assembly decides about the candidacy to associate membership.

This category of IGU membership consists of organisations, institutions and firms which give strong impetus, also from the financial side, to IGU. According to the IGU Statutes (Paragraph II, G)

«the dues for IGU Corporate Sponsorship shall be set at the time of admission and may be adjusted from time to time by the IGU Executive Committee».

Contact the Secretariat for further details

Geography is the discipline that attempts to explore how environments emerge by natural processes, how societies produce, organize, use and misuse environments, and how societies themselves are influenced by the environments in which they are located. Thus, geography aims to study both natural and human realms and their interactions, focusing on space, places, and regions, addressing and questioning both short-term and longer-term processes and their resultant patterns.

The contribution of geography to knowledge is in its focus on space and the environment as its principal notions of study. Since space is a basic dimension of both Nature and humanity, containing and related to numerous natural processes and human activities, geography provides integrating and holistic perspectives for phenomena and processes handled simultaneously by several other disciplines.

The contribution of geography to society is multifold: it provides people with a better understanding of the places, regions and countries in which they live, as well as of other countries and regions and of the planet at large. It further adds the spatial and integrative dimension and holistic perspective to various planning, forecasting and decision making processes.