Co-operation between FIG and the UN Agencies 2000 - 2003
- Report of the FIG/UN Roundtable 

Melbourne, Australia 1999





3.1 FIG
3.2 UNCHS (Habitat)
3.3 UN FAO 
3.4 UN Commission for Sustainable Development 
3.5 The World Bank
3.6 UNECE Meeting of Officials on Land Administration
3.8 UN Economic Commission for Africa
3.9 Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Americas
3.10 German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)







1. Agenda
2. List of Participants 
3. FIG Justification for UN/FIG Relationship


The Bathurst Declaration, the position papers prepared as background reading for the Bathurst Workshop then presented at the International Conference in Melbourne and the full program, summaries and proceedings of the Melbourne Conference are available on the WWW at:


The joint United Nations – International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) International Conference on Land Tenure and Cadastral Infrastructures for Sustainable Development, jointly organised by Professor Ian Williamson, Director, FIG-UN Liaison, Department of Geomatics, The University of Melbourne and Professor Don Grant, Australian Delegate, Commission 7, FIG, Surveyor General of New South Wales, was held in Melbourne on 24-27 October, 1999. The Roundtable between FIG and several UN agencies and other partners was held at the University of Melbourne on 27 October, 1999.

The aim of the Conference was to explore humankind-land relationships in the next millennium in the context of Agenda 21, a product of the UN’s 1991 Rio de Janeiro conference, and the emerging global village. It determined a broad vision and a set of guidelines for legal, technical and institutional cadastral infrastructures and systems to support land management and in particular land administration to ensure sustainable development. It clearly showed that appropriate land administration systems are essential to sustainable development, and that without them sustainable development is simply rhetoric. Land administration has a clear role and this was stressed in the Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development. The role of land administration in supporting sustainable development has significant implications for the administrative structure of government, private sector activities and individual rights/responsibilities.

The joint UN-FIG Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development was launched in Melbourne on 25 October 1999. The Declaration was prepared the previous week at a workshop in Bathurst, New South Wales, involving 40 leading experts from around the world representing five UN agencies and the World Bank, and a host of international experts on land, water, tenure reform, indigenous rights, women’s rights, the information revolution and government/institutional reform. The Declaration is published as publication no 21 in the FIG publication series.

The Conference was sponsored by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Statistics Division), New York; International Federation of Surveyors (FIG); Land Victoria, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria; Land Information Centre, New South Wales; The Institution of Surveyors, Australia Inc.; and the Department of Geomatics, The University of Melbourne, Australia. Support was also provided by a large number of private companies and institutions concerned with land administration and related technologies.

A Roundtable on the future co-operation between FIG and several UN agencies took place on 27th October to discuss the implementation of the Bathurst Declaration and to prepare the action plans between FIG and UN for 2000 - 2003. The final agreements and MoUs will be finalised and approved formally on bilateral basis.

All material from the Melbourne Conference, the Bathurst Workshop including the Bathurst Declaration and from the Melbourne Roundtable is available on the FIG home page:

On behalf of FIG we wish to thank the University of Melbourne for hosting the Roundtable and for its financial support and especially all the participants of the Roundtable for their contribution to promote sustainable development and land administration through the co-operation with FIG. The FIG Bureau and its ten technical commissions have committed to implement the recommendations of the Bathurst Declaration and the Roundtable. FIG will also encourage its the member associations to participate in this work.

Robert W. Foster                                             Ian P. Williamson
President of FIG Director                               FIG/UN Liaison

Co-operation between FIG and the UN Agencies 2000 - 2003
- Report of the FIG/UN Roundtable

27th October 1999, Melbourne, Australia

1. Welcome to Participants

Participants in the Roundtable were welcomed by Professor Kwong Lee Dow, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne; Professor Peter Dale, President of FIG; and Professor Ian Williamson, Director FIG/UN Liaison.

2. Aims of the FIG/UN Roundtable (Professor Ian Williamson, Director, FIG/UN Liaison)

The agreed Terms of Reference for the Roundtable were:

  • to establish a program of FIG/UN activities for the period 2000–2003.
  • to provide the opportunity where FIG can attain a better understanding of the roles of UN agencies and the World Bank, and for those agencies in turn to have a better understanding of the capabilities of FIG.
  • to identify key issues and initiatives on which FIG, the UN and the World Bank can collaborate.
  • to provide the opportunity for FIG to progress the current joint Work Plans between the FIG and UN agencies.
  • to determine how the joint UN-FIG Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development can be promoted and disseminated.

Professor Williamson also outlined some of the other issues which could be discussed:

  • the mechanisms whereby the UN can leverage off joint initiatives between the FIG and the UN through "seed funding" with the UN-FIG Bathurst Workshop and Melbourne Conference being excellent examples.
  • the mechanisms whereby the FIG and UN agencies can work in tripartite relationships with third parties such as national development assistance organisations.
  • the importance of FIG being a facilitator in encouraging networking between UN agencies and other interested parties or NGOs.

3. Background Presentations

3.1 FIG (Professor Peter Dale, President, FIG)

  • FIG is an accredited UN NGO which consists of member associations rather than individuals, however there are many professionals in those associations who are interested in international affairs.
  • While FIG has only small financial resources, it has large human resources representing many professional disciplines.
  • FIG strongly believes in building links with organisations that share common interests such as sustainable development. FIG is currently exploring a range of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
  • FIG is primarily interested in developing action plans and identifying deliverable products through such agreements.
  • An unresolved dilemma for FIG, however, is how it works with regionally decentralised organisations given that FIG itself does not have a regional structure.
  • Recognising the need to strengthen professional institutions in developing countries, the FIG can play an active role in establishing codes of ethics, licensing cadastral surveyors and establishing public/private partnerships in land administration.

3.2 UNCHS (Habitat) (Dr Sylvie Lacroux)

  • FIG and UNCHS (Habitat) have had a partnership for the past four years.
  • This arrangement commenced in 1995 prior to the Global Conference on Human Settlement held in Istanbul in 1996 (HABITAT II).
  • UNCHS (Habitat) welcomes the opportunity to strengthen its relationships with NGOs such as FIG, as well as with other UN organisations.
  • FIG has shown how it and other NGOs could contribute to UN initiatives, and entered into a 2-year MoU with UNCHS (Habitat) in January 1997 with respect to how it could contribute to the Habitat Agenda.
  • An assessment of the MoU was made in May 1999 to review its progress and to set the basis for future collaboration.
  • A positive initiative of the collaboration is that FIG has established the position of Director, FIG/UN Liaison.
  • Another positive initiative is that FIG strongly desires to involve all of its Commissions in the work of UNCHS (Habitat).
  • As for UNCHS (Habitat), it sees its work priority as being to deal with issues of security of tenure.
  • UNCHS (Habitat) regional offices have a full mandate to develop regional plans to implement the Habitat Agenda.
  • UNCHS (Habitat) will continue to participate in joint activities with FIG as appropriate.
  • UNCHS (Habitat) will participate in the special meeting of the UN General Assembly in June 2001 where UNCHS (Habitat) and its partners will report on "Istanbul + 5" - the progress made 5 years on from the HABITAT II Conference.

3.3 UN FAO (Dr James Riddell)

  • FAO has had a long-standing interest in land tenure issues, and has participated in several initiatives over the past two decades with FIG members.
  • FAO and FIG now participate in continual consultation with each other.
  • Issue #1: With regional and country program directors now having a bigger role in aid delivery, it is becoming more difficult for FIG to liaise with them since it does not have a regional structure.
  • Issue #2: The changing nature of aid projects is that individual governments and ministers increasingly decide what project components are funded and implemented.
  • Issue #3: Interest in cadastral and land registration issue is not new, given the history of these projects over the past 50 years, but many of those early projects have failed and are no longer functional. While there are now several hundred projects under way in the field of cadastre/land registration, we need to strongly consider what action is required to ensure their medium-term and long-term success.

3.4 UN Commission for Sustainable Development (Ms JoAnne DiSano)

  • The depth of knowledge of the group that developed the Bathurst Declaration regarding sustainable development was very impressive.
  • Establishment of new partnerships is very important to the UN, but we also need to consider how the UN can work better with donor countries.
  • The UN Commission for Sustainable Development is not large, but has recently gained extra technical support staff to supplement its policy staff.
  • The Commission is looking primarily at land management and agriculture in its 2000 program.
  • An outcome of the Melbourne conference should be that it is seen as an inter-sessional activity associated with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to be held in 2000.
  • The Division for Sustainable Development will discuss with FAO how the Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development can be referred to in the Secretary-General's Report to the Commission on Sustainable Development in 2000.
  • The Bathurst Declaration can be presented at the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-8) in New York in April 2000, presented in more detail at a side-event at the Commission activities and be made available as a background paper for the Commission.

3.5 The World Bank (Dr. Gershon Feder)

  • Two thematic groups have been established in the World Bank dealing with "Rural Land" (chaired by Cora Shaw) and "Urban Land" (chaired by Omar Razzaz), which have budgets to commission products such as manuals and case studies for distribution to World Bank staff.
  • The Bathurst Declaration and associated background papers prepared on CD for the Melbourne Conference could be distributed by these two thematic groups.
  • Additional useful products that could be distributed by the two thematic groups could be compilations of the costs of various cadastre/land registration projects and checklists on how to successfully conduct land administration projects.
  • It is suggested that the FIG is the appropriate organisation to prepare such products.
  • Issue #1: FIG needs to become a formal legal entity in order to undertake World Bank funded contracts for such product development (N.B. Professor Dale responded that this has already occurred with the establishment of the permanent FIG office in Copenhagen).
  • Issue #2: The FIG "Information 2000" brochure explaining FIG's goals, structure, operation and activities, needs to be provided in alternative electronic forms for wider dissemination.
  • FIG should consider how people with interests in land administration, such as lawyers and economists, can more easily link with FIG without needing to become members in the national associations comprising FIG (at present this tends to happen on an ad hoc basis).

3.6 UNECE Meeting of Officials on Land Administration (MOLA) (Mr. Helge Onsrud)

  • MOLA is not the only committee with cadastre / land administration interests in the European Union. CERCO also has some involvement although it concentrates on mapping, in addition to another committee dealing with land planning.
  • MOLA is seeking a wider non-surveying based membership.
  • MOLA is achieving very strong attendance at its seminars and conferences.
  • MOLA wants to participate more in preparing guideline documentation for dealing with land administration problems occurring in countries in transition.
  • In future, MOLA will focus more on problems associated with condominiums and land consolidation in countries in transition.
  • MOLA is examining how the quality of foreign assistance to countries in transition can be improved.
  • An activity to closely observe in the near future is the Austrian-based "Vienna Initiative", which involves cooperation between Austria, the World Bank, the US and European Union, to create a legal resource database for research and coordination purposes.

3.7 PCGIAP (Dato' Abdul Majid Mohamed)

  • The Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP) was formed at the UN cartographic Conference in Beijing in 1994.
  • It has active Geodesy and Spatial Data Infrastructure working groups, and is considering establishing a Cadastre working group.
  • The proposed group will examine cadastral / land administration issues and liaison between the countries involved in PCGIAP.
  • The proposed working group is expected to be formed in 2000 following discussions at a conference to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • The arrangements for liaison between FIG and the PCGIAP cadastre working group are still to be developed.

3.8 UN Economic Commission for Africa (Mr. Orlando Nino-Fluck)

  • The Commission assists member states in their social and economic activities. It is not a funding agency, but works to build awareness, disseminate information, liaise with interested stakeholders, and promote regional and international cooperation.
  • The Commission now has a range of geoinformation activities in which it is involved, and provides an advisory service on geoinformation issues.
  • It conducts policy and strategic studies, seminars, workshops, conferences, and needs assessments for member states.
  • The Committee maintains a series of databases and is completing a cartographic inventory atlas.
  • There are many obvious areas of cooperation with FIG, and these would include documenting successful case studies in GIS implementation and costs and benefits.
  • The Commission would like to see a distance learning centre established in GIS in Africa. Another valuable initiative would be joint FIG/ISPRS /ICA seminars on GIS applications
  • The Commission would welcome an agreement with FIG that helped achieve these goals.

3.9 Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Americas (Mr. Santiago Borrero)

  • Several recommendations for future co-operation were presented by Mr. Borrero, based on a 1998 paper presented at the 3rd GSDI Conference held in Canberra, Australia, when dealing with the GIS/SDI promotion in Latin America:
  • Open up the doors for all relevant actors involved in the development of GIS infrastructure for the Region.
  • Encourage creation of a GIS/SDI Permanent Committee for the Americas.
  • Promote a regional workshop and other educational activities, on GIS/SDI concrete applications, showing its economic, social and environmental benefits.
  • Obtain more clear statements from multilateral organizations, particularly from the United Nations agencies, concerning the use of global spatial information and its relation with development efforts in developing nations. Thus, clarifying specific confusions still existent.
  • Obtain the indispensable and much needed support from the International Geographic Organizations, and in particular FIG.
  • Spatial information is critical for growth in the Americas.
  • There is a strong need for closer links between all the FIG Commissions and the Americas.
  • There is currently only limited involvement between the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the Americas.
  • There is a need to have a more formalised regional body in the Americas dealing with Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs) as there is, for example, in the Pacific and Asia region (PCGIAP).

3.10 German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) (Mr. Willi Zimmermann)

  • GTZ is a private enterprise for implementing Development Cooperation Projects, owned by the German Government, and is now dealing with land tenure issues in post-conflict areas such as Bosnia. GTZ is currently working in 130 countries through 2500 projects. Land related projects comprise 5% of its annual budget (1.6 billion DM). GTZ has many ongoing initiatives of GTZ/UN cooperation. Priority in projects dealing with land issues is given to land registration, land policy advice, institutions for settling land conflicts, land tenure in post conflict countries and capacity building.
  • GTZ is calling for more complementary initiatives of UN-institutions, bilateral organisations involved in development co-operation and professional organisations like FIG.
  • There is a need for agencies to move from considering projects to programs. For example, land registration projects should be considered in the broader context of country programs for decentralisation.
  • The importance of good governance, accountability of the public sector and democratic rules if land administration is to contribute to sustainable development.
  • The role that FIG can play to address the challenge to transform land administration institutions to be much more service oriented and development oriented.
  • The value of traditional and slowly progressing land administration projects is doubtful in solving land-related issues given the rapidly changing nature of areas such as peri-urban zones and coastal zones under pressure.
  • Because of the pressure for rapid land issue solutions, GTZ is looking beyond land administration for immediate answers to these pressures and is examining broader solutions such as land regularization and land readjustment. In response, Professor Williamson noted that the term "Land Administration" now has a much broader definition than it had traditionally and includes land regularization solutions.
  • GTZ has produced an excellent book (with CD) providing guiding principles and documenting successful case studies in land tenure reform, cadastre / land registration projects titled "Land tenure in development cooperation – Guiding Principles" GTZ 1998 and the WWW page
  • GTZ gives full support to this FIG initiative.

4. General observations

  • The Bathurst Declaration should not be the final step and the UN should disseminate the Declaration as widely as possible to its members.
  • The Declaration should feature in a special issue of an appropriate international journal.
  • The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in late April - early May 2000 presents a key opportunity to present the Declaration.
  • There is a need to get more developing countries as members of FIG.
  • There are several cadastre/land registration documents being prepared in time for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
  • FIG Commission 7 should consider re-examining the FIG "Statement on the Cadastre" to reflect European trends.
  • FIG Commission 7 should consider establishing a working party dealing with cadastre and land registration in developing countries.
  • There is a need for an up-to-date list of UN and FIG regional contacts to facilitate liaison activities.
  • FIG should participate in the "Vienna Initiative" as an NGO in 2000.
  • FIG Commission 2 should consider the development of "virtual workshops" to assist with the training and education in cadastre and land registration in developing countries (Professor Stig Enemark noted that while this could be an expensive and resource consuming process. As such he would bring the matter to the attention of Commission 2).
  • UN agencies would find it easier to obtain seed funding if the FIG/UN work programs could be linked at the time of development (that is, about 2 years in advance).
  • It was suggested that guidelines be developed which reflect good practice in cadastre and land registration projects.
  • Another product proposed was the development of project performance indicators.

5. Guidelines for future FIG/UN Cooperation

  • FIG to operate in partnership with various UN agencies to progress issues of common interest in their respective work plans.
  • FIG and UN agencies to increasingly work in a tripartite relationship with other bodies, such as aid or development assistance agencies of respective countries.
  • To recognise that FIG is in a unique position to bring together various UN agencies interested in land administration and spatial information management as a group to discuss issues of common concern. In this regard FIG can act as a facilitator in encouraging networking between UN institutions and bilateral institutions.
  • To recognise that FIG is a non-profit organisation whose great strength is its access to a large pool of experienced professionals, who in general contribute their services voluntarily to FIG activities.
  • To recognise that in order for UN agencies to access these professional resources for joint UN/FIG activities, "seed funding" is required from a UN agency which may be supplemented by a third party such as a national aid or development assistance organisation.
  • To recognise that with the commitment of an UN agency to a joint UN/FIG initiative, the FIG is often in a position to leverage off the UN support to generate further financial support from other government and private sector organisations.
  • To recognise that while FIG will coordinate UN/FIG activities through its Bureau and the permanent FIG Office, FIG seeks to utilise the experience and resources of all individual Commissions.
  • To recognise that UN agencies are becoming more regionally decentralised, such as UNCHS (Habitat) and UN FAO, and also through such regional groups as UN/ECE MOLA and PCGIAP. In turn FIG will endeavour to seek the support and involvement of its member associations and regional delegates of individual Commissions to participate in regional activities.
  • FIG and UN participation at events should be funded if possible by their respective organisations, recognising that FIG as a non-profit organisation has no access to financial resource and as such relies on its individual members raising external funding for their involvement or having participation funded by a UN agency or a third party.
  • FIG will endeavour to develop MoUs with individual UN agencies to develop common work plans of mutual interest. At the same time, FIG will endeavour to continue to work in the widest sense within the UN family to ensure the FIG interacts with all interested UN parties.
  • FIG will endeavour to get its member associations more involved with regional UN activities.
  • There is considerable benefit in partnerships linking FIG and UN agencies, recognising that at least two years lead time is required to introduce initiatives of common interest to UN work plans.

6. Promotion and Dissemination of the Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development

  • The FIG Bureau should overview the implementation of the Declaration with the support of the Director, FIG/UN Liaison.
  • All documentation should be placed on the FIG website and distributed as widely as possible.
  • Presentation of the Declaration to the UN RCC for Asia and the Pacific in Kuala Lumpur in April 2000.
  • Presentations to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York in April 2000 as well as being provided as a background document to all participating member states.
  • Presentation of the Bathurst Declaration to the FIG General Assembly in Prague in May 2000.
  • Recognition of the Bathurst Workshop and Melbourne Conference and resulting Declaration and proceedings by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development as an inter-sessional activity.
  • Send the Declaration to the World Bank rural and urban land thematic groups for placement on their websites.
  • Send the Declaration to individual countries, relevant politicians and senior government officials.
  • FIG to encourage and support implementation of specific recommendations such as the global map of land tenure and land administration, the thesaurus on land tenure, and good practice and performance guidelines.
  • Presentation of the Declaration to UN at the UN Special Session on Istanbul + 5 in New York in June 2001, and integration with UNCHS (Habitat) work plan 2000-2003 and global campaign on secure tenure.
  • Seek support from FIG member associations and/or other organisations to translate the Declaration into other languages.
  • FIG to organise the printing and distribution of the Bathurst Declaration (either by the FIG or through the support of other organisations).
  • FIG Commission 2 to consider the desirability of developing a virtual land administration training program.
  • Distribute the PowerPoint presentations and a digital version of the Bathurst Declaration to all Roundtable delegates and other partners.

7. Close of Roundtable

Professor Dale thanked participants for their contribution to the Roundtable, particularly Professor Williamson and Mr John Parker for organising of the event and for the Department of Geomatics at the University of Melbourne in hosting the event. Mr Robert Foster, Vice-President of FIG, formally closed the meeting.

8. Acknowledgement

The FIG wishes to acknowledge the support of the Department of Geomatics, University of Melbourne in hosting the Roundtable and Dr Gary Hunter in preparing the draft report.



Upper East Dining Room, University House

The University of Melbourne

9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.

Chair: Prof. Peter Dale, President, FIG



  • Acting Vice Chancellor, The University of Melbourne, Prof. Kwong Lee Dow
  • President FIG, Peter Dale
  • Director FIG-UN Liaison, Ian Williamson

Background Presentations (10 minutes)

  • FIG, Peter Dale
  • UNCHS (Habitat), Sylvie Lacroux
  • UN FAO 10 mins (James Riddell)
  • UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs, JoAnne DiSano
  • World Bank, Gershon Feder
  • Meeting of Officials on Land Administration UN Economic Commission for Europe, Helge Onsrud
  • Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and Pacific, Abdul Majid
  • UN Economic Commission for Africa, Orlando Nino Fluck
  • Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Americas, Santiago Borrero
  • German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Willi Zimmermann
11.00 Morning tea

Options for collaboration (inc. funding option), Ian Williamson

UN/FIG Bathurst Declaration, Ian Williamson

11.35 Brainstorming ideas on future collaboration, All
2.00 Collaboration strategy, All

Publication of Roundtable discussion, implementation strategy and media release, All

3.45 Future FIG/UN Relationship – The way forward, Robert Foster)
4.00 Closing, Robert Foster)


Mr. Santiago Borrero Chair, Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Americas
Mr. Peter Holland for the Secretary, Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific
Professor Peter Dale President, International Federation of Surveyors
Ms JoAnne DiSano  Director, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations
Professor Stig Enemark  Former Chair, FIG Commission 2
Dr. Gershon Feder Research Manager - Rural Development, Development Research Group, The World Bank
Mr. Robert Foster  President-Elect, International Federation of Surveyors
Professor Don Grant  Australian Delegate, FIG Commission 7
Mr. Matt Higgins Vice-Chair, FIG Commission 5
Dr. Gary Hunter Former Secretary, FIG Commission 7 (rapporteur)
Dr Sylvie Lacroux Coordinator, Land & Tenure Unit, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)
Dato' Abdul Majid Mohamed Chair, Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific
Dr. Paul Munro-Faure Chair, FIG Commission 7
Mr. Orlando Nino-Fluck  Senior Cartographic Officer, Development Information Services Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Mr. Helge Onsrud  Chair, Meeting of Officials on Land Administration (MOLA), UN Economic Commission for Europe
Professor John Parker

Chair, FIG Commission 1

Dr. James C. Riddell Chief Land Tenure Service, UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO)
Mr. Markku Villikka  Director, FIG Permanent Office, Copenhagen
Professor Ian Williamson Director, FIG-UN Liaison
Professor Kai Yang Deputy Chair, Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific
Mr. Willi Zimmermann German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)


Surveying is a discipline which is increasingly recognised by United Nations agencies as being critically important to economic development, social stability and environmental management, or in short sustainable development. The professional skills of surveyors in land administration, land management, planning, valuation, environmental management, cadastral systems, land information systems and construction economics are essential to sustainable development of both developing and developed countries. In particular UN agencies are focussing on issues of access to land, security of tenure, the establishment of professional associations and the development of land markets as critical areas where surveyors can make a very important contribution. As a result UN agencies have increasingly looked towards non- government organisations such as FIG to develop partnerships to address these issues.

Due to this increasing interaction between the FIG and UN agencies, the FIG appointed a Director, FIG-UN Liaison at the Brighton Congress in 1998 for the remainder of the UK Bureau and for the period of the USA Bureau 1999-2003. The primary functions of the Director are:

  • To promote the profile of FIG in the UN
  • To liaise between FIG and appropriate UN agencies
  • To expand and implement FIG’s strategy for liaison between FIG and appropriate UN agencies
  • To advise the FIG Bureau on possible opportunities and initiatives which will further FIG’s links with UN agencies

The strengthening relationship between the FIG and the United Nations over the last decade was described by FIG President Peter Dale at the General Assembly in South Africa in 1999 in his paper titled "FIG and the United Nations" (Website: Also at the General Assembly Vice President Robert Foster (President-elect, FIG), Director FIG-UN Liaison, Ian Williamson and Director of the FIG Office, Markku Villikka, addressed delegates on FIG-UN liaison. They brought the General Assembly up to date on a recent successful visit by these FIG officers to the United Nations (UNCHS (Habitat) and UNEP) in Nairobi just prior to the Working Week in Sun City. Ian Williamson also updated the General Assembly on the plans for the UN-FIG International Conference on Land Tenure and Cadastral Infrastructures for Sustainable Development in Australia (24-27 October 1999 Website: and on the FIG home page

As noted by President Peter Dale in his address to the General Assembly, previous FIG Bureaux have been committed to developing a strong relationship with UN agencies. This started with the Finnish Bureau where FIG gained NGO status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). The Australian and UK Bureaux furthered and strengthened the relationship with UN agencies and particularly with UNCHS (Habitat), UNFAO and UNDESA (formerly DDSMS). The focus with UNCHS (Habitat) has been on urban issues while UNFAO has been on rural issues. The relationship with UNDESA has been focussed on the UN Regional Cartographic Conferences and a number of global events such as the development of the joint UN-FIG Bogor Declaration on Cadastral Reform (see Commission 7 WWW page at

The relationship between the FIG and UN agencies is now maturing. This has resulted in the USA Bureau including a commitment to strengthen the relationship with UN agencies in its Work Plan for 2000-2003. It recognises the role FIG has to promote the betterment of humanity and its environs in a similar manner to the UN. The Work Plan recognises that this must be done collaboratively between the FIG Bureau, the commissions and the member associations.

The benefits of a close working relationship between the FIG and the UN are summarised below:

Benefits to FIG

  1. FIG is recognised as an influential and well organised NGO that has something to offer the UN. This gives the FIG access to UN agencies, personnel and processes.
  2. Raises the profile of surveying on the world stage by showing that the profession is more than making maps but is about land and property management. The liaison promotes the skills of the profession.
  3. Allows the FIG to better achieve its mission, which includes making a contribution to the betterment of society in general. The profession is enhanced by members furthering the aims of the UN.
  4. Allows the FIG to leverage off the UN by running joint meetings, workshop and conferences, and undertaking joint projects, to the benefit of both organisations. This is of particular benefit to the activities of commissions and member associations.
  5. Provides a framework for FIG to access UN resources and networks.
  6. Ensures that FIG projects, policies and statements take account of international trends, protocols and developments.
  7. Facilitates the FIG posting its activities on UN WWW pages (and vice versa).

Benefits to member associations

  1. Many FIG member associations subscribe to the belief that what is good for the FIG is good for member associations! Undoubtedly a strengthening of the relationship with the UN is good for the FIG.
  2. The UN liaison has brought a sense of achievement to member associations.
  3. UN liaison allows member associations to recognise and promote that they are part of the international community.
  4. Provides a mechanism for member associations to have access to the UN through the FIG to promote or support a specific issue.
  5. Joint initiatives with the UN raise the profile of the member associations in their respective countries, particularly with governments. This is particularly important as the UN focuses more on regional activities being administered through regional offices (such as UNCHS (Habitat) and UNFAO).
  6. Ensures that FIG member associations are not operating in isolation to world trends and influences outside the profession of surveying.

Benefits to individual member surveyors

  1. Again many people subscribe to the belief that what is good for FIG member associations is good for individual member surveyors!
  2. The relationship with the UN allows practising surveyors to see that their work is fundamental to economic development, social stability and environmental management and that the profession is the backbone of any society. The work of surveyors in supporting these objectives is very clearly highlighted in developing countries but often forgotten or devalued in well established systems in developed countries. This in turn promotes a pride in the profession.
  3. Facilitates members visiting and having contacts within the UN.
  4. Allows individual surveyors to have access to UN information and contacts and to spend periods of study leave in UN agencies. This ensures appropriate surveying research is relevant.
  5. Links surveyors into a wider network to open up possible work and contract opportunities (UN member state aid bureaus, UN projects, World Bank etc).

Ian Williamson
Director, FIG/UN Liaison


Co-operation between FIG and the UN Agencies 2000 -2003 - Report of the FIG/UN Roundtable 
Melbourne, Australia, 1999

Published in English

Published by The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)
ISBN: 87-90907-02-7, December 1999, Frederiksberg, Denmark

Printed copies can be ordered from:
FIG Office, Kalvebod Brygge 31-33, DK-1780 Copenhagen V, DENMARK,
Tel: + 45 38 86 10 81, E-mail: