IGU Urban Commission Conference

Cities, which occupy less than 3% of the Earth’s land area, are home to more than 50% of the world’s population. They are major drivers of global environmental change are and are especially vulnerable to those changes. The distinctive processes and problems found in cities are the focus of the work of the International Geographical Union (IGU) Urban Commission. The Commission’s 2015 conference was hosted by the newly (re)formed School of Geography at UCD during August. Its special theme on Urban Environment and Resilience was chosen because of UCD’s internationally recognized expertise in this area.

The annual conference of this group was organised by Dr Niamh Moore-Cherry (Geography) and facilitated by UCD Earth Institute, Dublin City Council and the Geographical Society of Ireland. Owen Keegan (CEO Dublin City Council) and Prof Orla Feely (VP for Research, Innovation and Impact) opened the event in City Hall to delegates from 27 countries.

The 7-day academic and field excursion programme focused on issues including technological innovations and creative activities in cities; creating sustainability; contested social spaces; urban governance; and complex urban systems. The keynote lecture on “Real-time cities and the politics of urban big data” by Prof Rob Kitchin (Maynooth University) discussed the potential and perils of technological approaches city management through the integration of data from a vast array of sources. Over the week there were more than 70 paper presentations but the distinctive component of the conference was the extensive field excursions which included trips to Belfast, Galway, Limerick and walking tours in Dublin and Wicklow.

The IGU conference highlighted the need for urgent transnational collaboration to address global urban challenges. It also established the reputation of UCD Geography as an international centre for research and teaching on the urban environment.