17th International Congress of Speleology (ICS) Down Under in 2017

By DENIS MARSH Speleo 2017 ICS Organising Commission

In July 2013, in the Czech Republic city of Brno, world delegates at the General Assembly meeting of the International Union of Speleology (UIS), voted to accept a proposal from ASF to hold their next International Congress of Speleology (ICS) in Australia in July, 2017.

What does this mean for ASF?

ASF (the host organisation) will be responsible for organising and conducting the 17th ICS in Australia (the host nation) for and on behalf of the UIS, in accordance with UIS requirements. The ASF Executive believes it is timely for Australia to increase its participation on the world stage for speleology and share what we do with the rest of the international community.

What is the UIS?

The Union Internationale de Spéléologie (in the original French) is the international body for caving and speleology. Formed during the 4th International Congress of Speleology in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, on September 16, 1965, the UIS is an association of persons (national delegates) authorised to represent the speleologists of the nations (member nations) affiliated to the Union.

It is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which promotes the development of interaction between academic and technical speleologists, developing and coordinating international speleology in all its scientific, technical, cultural and economic aspects. Although the name may be written differently in other languages, the original acronym (UIS) is maintained.

At present, the UIS has more than 60 member countries, located on all continents, and is open to the affiliation of all national associations and federations.

The UIS web site.

Since July 20, 2002, the UIS has had a fixed address: Titov trg 2, Postojna, Slovenia, in space provided by the government via the Institute of Karst Research of the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences, where all the UIS Archives are now stored. The UIS is a legal subject of Slovene law.

It is the General Assembly of the UIS at the International Congresses, consisting of all the delegates of member countries, which decides the direction of the UIS by their votes. For the ballots, each nation has only one vote.

An elected Bureau runs the affairs of UIS between the 4-yearly General Assemblies held at the International Congresses. During each ordinary General Assembly, the titular national delegates elect by secret ballot the Bureau comprised of one President, two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary General who also acts as Treasurer, and Adjunct-Secretaries whose number (usually eight) is determined by the General Assembly. The Bureau is accountable to the General Assembly.

It is during the General Assembly that the activities of Commissions, Working Groups and Committees of the previous four years are presented and voted on.

This is also the time for the creation or extinction of Commissions and Working Groups, analysis of the financial situation of the UIS, admittance of new members, modification of statutes, approval of new documents and is where new agreements are made and signed.

During its general meeting at each ICS, the General Assembly of the Union elects, by simple majority of attending delegates, one of the candidate nations to organise the next International Congress.

What is the ICS?

Speleology took its first steps towards recognition as a science at the end of the 19th century. In the mid 1900s the international speleological community, mostly Europeans, had the idea of holding International Speleological Congresses.

In a meeting on August 22-23, 1949, in Valence, France, the decision was taken to hold the first in Paris, France, in 1953.

Since then, International Speleological Congresses have been held in Italy (Bari, 1958), Austria (Vienna, 1961), Yugoslavia (Postojna, 1965), Germany (Stuttgart, 1969), Czechoslovakia (Olomouc, 1973), Great Britain (Sheffield, 1977), United States (Bowling Green, 1981), Spain (Barcelona, 1986), Hungary (Budapest, 1989), China (Beijing, 1993), Switzerland (La Chaux-des-Fonds, 1997), Brazil (Brasilia, 2001), Greece (Athens-Kalamos, 2005), United States (Kerrville, 2009) and most recently the Czech Republic (Brno, 2013).

ICSs are conducted every four years, to verify the ‘State of the Art’ of world speleology. They are hosted by a Member Country whose proposal is analysed and chosen by vote during the General Assembly. Congresses are regulated by the Instructions and General Recommendations for Organizers of International Congresses of Speleology.

All matters relating to speleology are considered during International Congresses. Papers on the various facets of speleology are presented, including scientific areas (geology, hydrogeology, mineralogy, biology, climatology, archaeology, palaeontology and geography), technical work (exploration, survey, rescue, new techniques, documentation et al.) and cultural themes (religion, art, music, painting, sculpture, and the collection of stamps and coins).

In addition to the formal presentation of papers, Congresses schedule meetings of the various Commissions and Working Groups and provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas and participation in various cultural activities, such as social gatherings, competitions, and technical visits.

Excursions are organised to visit the karst and caves of the host country, before, during and after the Congress.

The Bureau collaborates constructively with the Organising Committee of every ICS to establish the Congress program.

Where to from here for ASF?

The ASF Executive considered a number of options for the type of organising body which should be set up to take on this task.

Organisation of the ICS in Australia poses a significant challenge for ASF, potentially exposing the Federation to a level of financial risk which will require careful management. Accordingly, members of the Executive initiated informal discussions with legal professionals and it was determined that specific professional financial advice was more appropriate to decide on a direction.

Initially a totally separate entity, such as an Incorporated Association, was considered.

Such a new Association would be totally independent, requiring a contract with ASF to organise and conduct the ICS. It was determined that this was not a good fit with UIS requirements and lacked appropriate levels of control by both the UIS and ASF.

Considering the requirements of the UIS and financial advice from a professional accountant, it has been determined that a Commission be set up within ASF, known as the Speleo 2017 ICS Organising Commission, to organise and conduct the ICS on behalf of the UIS and ASF. Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Commission were drafted in consultation with legal and financial professionals and subsequently adopted by the ASF Executive.

What has the Organising Commission been up to?

The Executive Board of the Commission has been established consisting of: President (Denis Marsh, [OSS]), Vice President (Nic White, [VSA]), Secretary (Jim Crockett, [MSS]), Treasurer (David Butler, [NC]), and UIS representative (George Veni, [USA]). Stan Flavel (ASF President) will be an ex-officio member acting as UIS Bureau and ASF liaison.

The venue: Penrith Panthers Events Centre, Sydney
The venue: Penrith Panthers Events Centre, Sydney

An inaugural Executive Board planning meeting was held in February and a second meeting was held at the beginning of May which incorporated a visit to the Penrith Panthers to view the conference facilities.

Planning of sub-committees is being progressed. A Publications Committee chaired by Sue White (VSA) is being set up, as has a Field Excursions Committee chaired by Cathie Plowman (NC).

Other sub-committees and potential chairs are being developed along with identifying the many tasks and sub-committee responsibilities. So far these include a Program Committee (includes Scientific Program, Social Program and Technical Program), Promotion Committee, Public Relations Committee, Venue and Accommodation Committee and Finance and Registration Committee.

Administration requirements such as establishment of a PO Box, bank account, letterhead, ABN and tax file number registration have been completed. Other important priorities being progressed include development of a web site and investigation of insurance requirements.

A meeting of the Commission’s Executive Board with representatives of the UIS Bureau has been scheduled in Sydney for the end of October to coincide with the UIS Bureau’s annual meeting.

How can ASF members assist?

As planning progresses the many tasks will be identified where ASF members can help with the organisation. Should you have particular skills or interests, whether as a club or individual, please email the Executive Board at: speleo2017@caves.org.au

This will be a significant responsibility and undertaking for ASF members. The more members getting involved, the smaller the many tasks become. The ICS Executive Board’s job will be to ensure that the organisation and conduct of the Congress is not only managed but resourced appropriately.

Regular updates on the organisation and progress of the Congress will be featured in future issues of Caves Australia, so stay tuned.