International Meetings and Conferences Research

An important area of interest within the field of international associations are the meetings and events organized by these bodies. This has been a significant theme of research at the UIA: necessitating the rigorous collection of data on international meetings; guiding studies and commentary about international conferences, their challenges and technical aspects of their organization; motivating investigation into facilitating participant interaction and the sharing of knowledge; and inspiring exploration into the progressive potential of transformative conferencing and dialogue for sustainable communities and development.

Databases and General Information

The UIA has been maintaining information on international conferences since its creation in 1907. This information is maintained in UIA's databases, and cover the period from the earliest international meetings centuries ago, to information on international conferences scheduled decades into the future. Relevant resources include:

  • The International Congress Calendar, detailing international meetings including conferences and meetings of IGOs and NGOs, international symposia, regional (sub-continental) conferences and congresses, and general assemblies of international bodies.
  • The Yearbook of International Organizations, containing summary listings of current, past and future international events including meetings, conferences and congress series.
  • The Annual International Meetings Statistics Report, a statistical study of the data in the International Congress Calendar, on the preceding year's international meetings.

Technicalities of International Conferencing

Studies and commentary about international conferences, and their challenges, are produced in various UIA publications and documents. For instance, we have long been concerned with the challenges of international conference organization. In the 1950s and 1960s, the focus was on the technicalities and logistics of conference organization: communication equipment, budgeting, interpretation, conference centre design, standards, and the like. Such issues were explored through a series of International Congresses on Congress Organization. In the past the UIA has also had several major projects gathering bibliographical information on the proceedings of international meetings, and the methods for organizing them (see bibliographical research):

Another resource of interest is a UIA study on Meeting Security published in 2001, covering the dangers and protective measures associated with international meetings. 

Dynamics of Knowledge Exchange

The multiplicity of conferences on every conceivable topic calls for radical new approaches to information about them; how they relate to, and address problems, and strategies for seeking consensus within such events.

Therefore, through the 1970s the concern gradually shifted away from the technicalities of conference production, and instead towards to the socio-dynamics of conference processes, notably the information tools which could facilitate participant interaction. Of special interest is the organization of insight emerging at conferences, and processes to give coherence to this insight. A number of initiatives have been taken by the UIA to facilitate insight processing in larger events, especially in the light of new computer technology. Resources include Keynote Listening, a tool facilitating understanding during conferences by representing information in alternative visual ways, and inspiring participant engagement.