Administration of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) was handed over to the new American Bureau from the United Kingdom group in November 1999. The American Bureau ran its first general meeting of FIG ("Working Week") in Prague, Czech Republic, in May 2000. A FIG Working Week consists of meetings of the Bureau, the Advisory Committee of Commission Officers (ACCO), the Commissions and the General Assembly (GA). The work of the Bureau is administrative, while the General Assembly acts more as a legislative group. The technical work of FIG is performed by the Commissions; ACCO is a meeting of Commission chairs and makes recommendations to the Bureau and ultimately to the General Assembly.

The Prague Working Week

Forty-two FIG member associations from 35 nations attended the General Assembly in Prague in May. The attention of the GA was focused on several administrative and legislative issues:

  • Changes to the governance of FIG, as presented by the Task Force on Future Governance, were approved by the GA. In the future, FIG will be administered by a Council (no longer to be called a Bureau) consisting of a president and five vice-presidents to be appointed by popular election by the GA. Elections are to be held every two years, and terms are to be four years. A Nominations Review Group will manage the process of bringing candidates forward to the GA, ensuring a "balanced" (geographically and by discipline) distribution of candidates. This is a major change in the governance of FIG. In the past, the Bureau has been furnished by the nation which has been chosen to host a future Congress, meaning that the General Assembly has not known beforehand who its administrative leaders would be.

  • The FIG-UN Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration and Sustainable Development was presented to the General Assembly and discussed in detail during technical sessions. (See "Sustainable Development in the New Millennium," POB, April 2000.) The declaration is being quoted worldwide and is an important initiative for surveyors. It is also an important example of the fine working relationship FIG has with the United Nations and the respect FIG has earned with that institution.

  • The FIG Education Foundation was granted $5,000 from surplus funds from the FIG-UN International Conference on Land Tenure and Cadastral Infrastructures held in Melbourne in 1999.

  • FIG has published a Surveying Education Database listing over 400 programs from 200 universities around the world. It has been designed as a Web-based tool for information and communication and may be accessed at The database is an interactive system providing up-to-date information maintained by the universities themselves. Every U.S. college and university offering surveying education should register their programs on the database. FIG also has created an academic membership for institutions, professors and teachers of surveying. Membership is modest in cost, while providing the benefit of access to the activities of the only international association of the surveying professions.

  • An ad hoc Commission on Cultures and Languages in FIG was established by the GA on the motion of the two member associations from France, the Ordre des Geometre-Experts (OGE) and the Association Francaise de Topographie (AFT). FIG voted several years ago to use English as its primary language for all meetings and communications due to the high cost of translation for the three principle languages used historically by the Federation and because the growth of FIG since its inception has added so many more languages. Now the French-speaking members have argued that "(e)xchanges and communication must be rebuilt to give FIG its full efficiency. It is necessary to encourage cultural and linguistic diversities instead of limiting them." The debate on this issue promises to continue; its resolution is problematic.

  • FIG Commission 2 (Professional Education) and Commission 9 (Valuation and Management of Real Estate) established a joint Working Group for Education of Valuers. Valuation (we usually refer to it as appraisal) is considered surveying in much of the world, though in the United States we think of it as a separate activity altogether. Valuation needs international standards of practice as well as educational standards, especially as the profession grows in developing economies where there is the emergence of open land markets.

The Bureau

The current FIG Bureau, made up of five ACSM members, one member of the prior U.K. Bureau and one member of the future German Bureau, has as an objective a goal to form closer working relationship between FIG and its member associations. For the Americans, this translates as an attempt to involve ACSM more in the operations of the Federation. Accordingly, the FIG Bureau and ACCO will hold meetings in Providence, R.I., during the ACSM/ASPRS meeting to be held there this December. It is to be a meeting of several firsts: the first joint ACSM/ASPRS conference in several years, the first time for an ACSM/ASPRS fall conference in New England, the first time for a FIG Bureau and ACCO to be meeting during an ACSM/ASPRS conference and the first official meeting of the new U.S. Bureau on American soil since the hand-over in November 1999.

The Commissions

The aim of FIG is "to ensure that the disciplines of surveying and all who practice them meet the needs of the markets and communities that they serve." It is the commissions of FIG that seek to realize that aim in a technical sense. The nine commissions are assigned, in order:

  • professional practice

  • professional education

  • spatial information management

  • hydrography

  • positioning and measurement

  • engineering surveys

  • cadastre and land management

  • spatial planning and development

  • valuation and management of real estate.

An ad hoc commission on construction economics and management has for several years been in the process of start-up toward permanent status. (See the ACSM journal Surveying and Land Information Systems for a more comprehensive description of the commissions of FIG.)

FIG Working Weeks

FIG Working Weeks are held annually at sites chosen several years in advance with the purpose of bringing FIG to its various members' national locations. Future Working Weeks are to be held in:

2001 Seoul, Korea

2003 Eilat, Israel

2004 Athens, Greece

2005 Cairo, Egypt

FIG Congresses

FIG Congresses are held quadrennially, the next two to be held in Washington, D.C., in 2002 and in Munich, Germany, in 2006. The Washington Congress will be held jointly with the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and promises to be a spectacular event.