International Geographical Union Regional Conference
”Changes, Challenges, Responsibility”
Kraków, Poland, 18-22.08.2014

The 2014 IGU Regional Conference took place in Krakow, Poland, in the Jagiellonian University. This combination of time and location has a few dimensions which contributed to the conference organization. In 2014, Poland celebrated 25th anniversary of the political independence resumption, the Jagiellonian University celebrated the 650th anniversary of its foundation, and Polish geographers celebrated the 80th anniversary of the 14th IGU congress organized in 1934 in Warsaw. Therefore, the 2014 IGU RC in Krakow was organized under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, and the members of the conference Honorary Committee were Professor Vladimir Kolosov, President of the International Geographical Union, Professor Michal Kleiber, President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Professor Jacek Majchrowski, Mayor of the City of Krakow and Professor Wojciech Nowak, Rector of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

The idea of hosting the IGU conference in Poland for the second time in history was initiated in 2002 by the Polish Geographical Society which acted as an umbrella for the consortium of eight Polish geographical institutions which cooperated to promote Polish geographical research worldwide and which prepared the conference proposal. The consortium consisted of the following institutions:

  • Polish Geographical Society
  • Jagiellonian University, Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, Krakow
  • Pedagogical University of Cracow, Institute of Geography
  • Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences, Poznan
  • Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Warsaw
  • University of Lodz, Faculty of Geographical Sciences
  • University of Silesia, Faculty of Earth Sciences, Sosnowiec
  • University of Warsaw, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies

The representatives of the consortium institutions established the Steering Committee of the conference. In 2011, the Local Organizing Committee was established and began the conference arrangements.

The conference began with the Opening Ceremony organized in Auditorium Maximum of the Jagiellonian University. Among the invited guests there were senior professors of geography from all over Poland and families of Polish geographers who organized the IGU conference in Warsaw in 1934. Conference participants were welcomed by Professor Jacek Majchrowski, Mayor of the City of Kraków and Professor Piotr Laidler, Vice-Rector of the Jagiellonian University, and then addressed by Professor Pawel Swianiewicz, Advisor of the President of the Republic of Poland, Professor Vladimir Kolosov, President of the International Geographical Union, Professor Marek Chmielewski, Vice-President of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Professor Marek Degórski, Chair of the Steering Committee of the 2014 IGU RC. Professor Jacek Majchrowski contributed to the Gold Medal Ceremony of the 11thInternational Geography Olympiad, led by Ms. Kathryn Berg and Professor Lex Chalmers. The 11th International Geography Olympiad was organized in the Pedagogical University of Cracow, on 12-18 August 2014, and was attended by 36 teams from all over the world. The best score was achieved by the team from Singapore. During the second part of the Opening Ceremony, a short piano recital by Mateusz Mateja allowed the ceremony participants to experience Polish tradition, landscapes and history, expressed with the international language of musical masterpieces of Frédéric Chopin. Opening lecture: “Relevance of Geography” was presented by Professor Leszek Kosiński. Opening ceremony was followed by the ice-breaker party in Auditorium Maximum and then by the opening of the exhibition “The Development of Geographical Ideas in Poland” in the museum of the Jagiellonian University in Collegium Maius.

Conference core activities consisted of IGU commissions sessions, thematic sessions (both oral and poster ones) and plenary sessions. The sessions took place in three buildings of the Jagiellonian University Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences, located in the Campus of the 600thAnniversary of the Jagiellonian University Revival. There were 226 oral sessions organized by particular IGU Commissions. The commissions which organized the largest number of sessions were:

  • C12.08 Dynamics of Economic Spaces: 22 sessions;
  • C12.11 Geographical Education: 19 sessions;
  • C12.39 Urban Commission: Urban Challenges in a Complex World: 19 sessions.

Additionally, there were 19 joint sessions organized by two or more IGU commissions, and 47 sessions organized by the conference participants. Totally, in all the oral sessions, there were 1171 oral presentations. Parallel, 227 posters were presented, each of them assigned to a particular session.

On each conference day, one of the key conference theme words: Changes, Challenges, Responsibility was considered during plenary lectures. The directions and dynamics of CHANGES in the environment were discussed during the plenary session on 19 August 2014. The lecture presented by Professor Benno Werlen (2016 The UN International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU) – The UN International Year of Geography) has driven the attention to both traditional and new areas of changes which are of interest to geographers. The plenary lectures by Professor Zbigniew Kundzewicz (Climate change, related challenges and responsibilities) and Professor Gideon Biger (The Challenge of Historical Geography and the geographical question of “Where is the Holy Land”?”), presented during the plenary session on 20 August 2014, gave an opportunity to exchange insights on contemporary CHALLENGES. They emphasized the role of both natural and social aspects of global issues with their strong local repercussions. An attempt to determine the RESPONSIBILITY of human kind for the observed changes (a plenary session on 21 August 2014) were undertaken during the lectures by Professor Julie Winkler (Embracing the Complexity and Uncertainty of Climate Change: Responsibilities for Geographers) and Professor Andreas Faludi (Place is a no-man’s land, so who is responsible?).

There were 1470 participants who registered for the conference and 1372 attended the event (93%). About 100 young researchers took part in the conference thanks to the opportunity of the reduced fee offer. The participants came to Krakow from 60 countries, including 416 persons from Poland. Attendance by countries (apart from Poland) is presented in figures 1-3.

2014 IGU Conference report tables

Accompanying events included pre-conference meetings and seminars of the IGU commissions, the 11th International Geography Olympiad, exhibition and workshops organized during the conference, IGU commissions business meetings during the conference, two academic excursions (before and after the conference),exhibition “The Development of Geographical Ideas in Poland” in the museum of the Jagiellonian University, half-day and 1-day touristic tours in Krakow and its vicinities, and three social events.

Six IGU Commissions organized pre-conference meetings in various localities in Poland:

  • C12.10 Gender and Geography: Workshop on “The Gendering of New Realities: Unequal Challenges and Responsibilities”, 16-17 August 2014, Warsaw
  • C12.13 Geography of Governance: 14-16 August 2014, Poznan
  • C12.15 Geography of Tourism, Leisure, and Global Change: 13-17 August 2014, Kraków / Pieniny Mts
  • C12.19 Health and Environment: MEDICAL GEOGRAPHY FORUM 2014, 14-17 August 2014, Warsaw
  • C12.33 Political Geography: Geographical-political aspects of the transborder conservation of natural and cultural heritage, 15-17 August 2014, Lopuszna
  • C12.39 Urban Commission: Urban Challenges in a Complex World, Annual Conference of the IGU Urban Commission Poznan 2014, 11-14 August 2014, Poznan

During the conference, the exhibition area was arranged in one of the conference buildings. There were 14 exhibitors, including the organizers of future IGU conferences in Moscow (2015) and Beijing (2016). Parallel to conference sessions, there were four workshops available:

  • “City without God”. Origin and changes of religious space new socialist and post-socialist cities; organisers: Elzbieta Bilska-Wodecka (Poland), Tomás Havlícek (Czechia), Katarzyna Kulczynska (Poland), Justyna Liro (Poland), Izabela Sołjan (Poland)
  • Current trends in landscape fragmentation and connectivity assessment; organisers: Katarzyna Ostapowicz (Poland), Elzbieta Ziolkowska (Poland)
  • Ecosystem services concept in spatial planning; organisers: Ewelina Mocior (Poland), Agnieszka Nowak (Poland)
  • Improving your presentation skills: a video-training workshop for young geographers; organisers: Joos Droogleever Fortuijn (The Netherlands), Joop van der Schee (The Netherlands)

Nine IGU Commissions organized their business meetings during the conference. Additionally, General Assembly of the European Association of Geographical Societies took place on 20 August. During the whole conference week, the participants were given the opportunity to visit the exhibition “The Development of Geographical Ideas in Poland” in the Museum of the Jagiellonian University, in the building of Collegium Maius. This exhibition is aimed at acquainting all the interested parties with the magnificent tradition of the Polish geography, dating back to medieval times. The main mission of our ancestors has always been to make the society realize how important and wonderful science geography is.

The conference participants attended three types of excursions:

  • Half-day trips (a guided tour in Krakow’s Old Town and a guided tour in Nowa Huta district);
  • one-day trips (Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour, Ojcowski National Park and a Castle in Pieskowa Skala; a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Wadowice and Lagiewniki);
  • academic excursions: 1. Land degradation and reclamation in the Silesian Upland and the Polish Carpathians (14-17 August 2014); organizers: Pawel Prokop, Polish Academy of Sciences, Branch Krakow, Renata Dulias, University of Silesia; 2. Central Poland (23-25 August 2014); organizer: Robert Wilus, Univeristy of Lodz

There were three social events organized for the conference participants:

  • Ice-breaker party after the Opening Ceremony, in Auditorium Maximum of the Jagiellonian University;
  • Outdoor social event in the “Stara Zajezdnia” restaurant, located in a former tram depot, close to the Museum of City Engineering;
  • Gala Dinner in the underground historical salt mine chamber „Warszawa” (in English: Warsaw), located 125 m underground in the Wieliczka Salt Mine Museum, located about 10 km south-east of Krakow.

During the Closing Ceremony, on 22nd August, Professor Vladimir Kolosov, President of IGU, handed in the IGU award to the Commission on Gender and Geography, and Professor Janice Monk represented the commission. Professor Michael Meadows, Secretary General and Treasurer of IGU, presented twenty conference participants awarded with the IGU Travel grants. The programme of the next IGU Regional Conference to be held in Moscow in 2015 was presented by Dr. Sergey Chalov, and Professor Chenghu Zhou presented the programme of IGU Congress to be held in Beijing in 2016. The musical accent of the Closing Ceremony was a short recital by the Academic Choir “Camerata Jagellonica” of the Jagiellonian University which performed five songs, from 13th century popular academic song “Gaudeamus igitur” to traditional Polish folk songs. The two last presentations were delivered by Dr. Anita Bokwa, the chair of LOC, and by Professor Marek Degórski, the chair of the conference Steering Committee, who presented the basic conference statistics and closed the conference.

The Local Organizing Committee could never realize its tasks without the full support from the IGU Executive Committee and without the support from Colleagues working in other Polish cities who organized most of the accompanying events. Special thanks should be directed to the staff of the Jagiellonian University Department of Communications and Marketing – Conferences who supported the LOC in all formal and financial issues and ran the conference office. Last not least, a huge work was completed before and during the conference by about 120 volunteers from eight Polish geographical institutions and special thanks are also directed to them.