The International Geographical Union (IGU) promotes the study of geographical problems; initiates and coordinates geographical research requiring international cooperation; promotes scientific discussion and publication; provides for the participation of geographers in the work of relevant international organizations; facilitates the collection and diffusion of geographical data and documentation in and among its member countries; promotes International Geographical Congresses, Regional Conferences and specialized symposia related to the objectives of the IGU; and participates in any other appropriate form of international cooperation that advances the study and application of geography. The first International Geographical Congress was held in Antwerp in 1871. Subsequent meetings led to the establishment of the permanent organization in 1922. The IGU’s working languages are English and French.
Congresses are normally held every four years. The most recent was in Seoul in 2000. Future congresses are scheduled for Glasgow (2004) and Tunis (2008). Recent regional conferences were held in Lisbon (1998) and Durban (2000); future conferences are scheduled for Cairns (2006) and Tel Aviv (2010). The IGU General Assembly of delegates appointed by member countries is the IGU’s highest authority. The General Assembly elects an executive committee every four years. Research is conducted by the IGU’s 32 Commissions and two Task Forces, which each year sponsor 40-50 meetings and symposia throughout the world.
The International Geographical Union adheres to the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), which it recognizes as coordinating bodies for the international organization of science. At the end of 2002 the IGU had 94 member countries or territories, including 6 associate members and 24 members with observer status. The IGU Secretariat is maintained by its Secretary-General, currently in Washington, D.C. In collaboration with the City of Rome and the Italian Geographical Society, the IGU also maintains the Villa Celimontana-Home of Geography in Rome.