Article of the Month -
About Surveyors’ Commitment, Role and Education for Society
and Sustainable Development
FIG President Univ. Professor Dr.-Ing. Holger MAGEL
This article in .pdf-format
Keynote Address at the Opening Ceremony of the 8th SEASC 2005 on 22 November
2005 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam.
Darussalam – A model of global surveyors community and its challenges
Honourable Minister of Development Pehin Dato Paduka Abdullah bin
Begawan, Honourable Deputy Minister, Minister Surveyor General and President
of the 8th SEASC 2005, Pg. Matusin Matasan, Excellencies, Distinguished
Delegates, Colleagues and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my real honour and great pleasure to convey to you the warmest
greetings of FIG and congratulations for organizing this important
conference with a very actual topic “Geomatics and the Community: Spatial
Way to Sustainable Development”. It is an actual topic everywhere! In
the last two weeks having visited first Australia and then, due to the
wonderful hospitality of our Brunei host member association, having visited
some characteristic places in this paradise or ‘abode of peace’ I have
already been confronted with essential parts of the congress motto and of
our FIG mission: “Serving society and sustainable development by
contributing e.g. to build modern land administration systems” (this was
the topic at a meeting in Melbourne with leading experts!), by contributing
to sustain natural resources like the unspoilt rainforest in Temburong
National Park or to keep the balance between economic and environmental
aspects like it happens with domestic oil and gas industry in the Belait
District or to contribute to development and resettlement measures e.g. for
water villagers and indigenous poor people. Finally, I have noted by reading
the daily newspapers and watching TV: The world is at home everywhere, all
what happens on the globe is well-known nearly everywhere either it is the
news on the WSIS in Tunis, which is of special interest for our surveyors’
community, or whether it is what His Majesty, the Sultan of Brunei, and his
ministers are enhancing on the field of the growing role of NGO’s or on the
field of bottom-up development and civic engagement in rural areas.
This is why I am deeply convinced of that this international conference
can benefit of the so-called ‘genius loci’ or ‘spirit of place’, that is why
I strongly believe that this event will bring very valuable outputs and
incentives for the work of our global family of surveyors, i.e. for FIG. The
more the world and its societies are changing, the more the professions of
surveying and survey professionals have to be able to change. That is the
reason why for my four-year’s presidency I have chosen the motto “Shaping
surveyors’ commitment and role for society and sustainable development
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a very simple and right truth: You only can
shape the change proactively instead of waiting passively what will happen,
if you are prepared for it. Prepared means to me that you first should know
your identity and commitment and that you have the ability or knowledge,
competence and skills to face the challenges and fulfil your role, all based
on solid education, CPD and values!
“Without knowledge, an organisation will face obstacles, remain static
and be incapable to bring about dynamic change…The needed changes involve
attitude, mindset, leadership, administration and management.” This
quotation was not an address to surveyors and their institutions, but it was
the keynote speech of the Brunei Minister of Home Affairs at the national
level seminar for village leaders and long house heads last week.
Honourable Minister of Development, Pehin Abdullah, during my courtesy
call to you, which I was very impressed, we both agreed on the importance of
the right mindset mainly based on values, ethics and attitudes. One of the
most successful, highly acknowledged German ‘global players’, the
international consultant Prof. Roland Berger even said: “Values, ethics
and paradigms of commitments and achievements are one of the seven key
factors of growing economy and wealth and a basis for innovation and new
ideas and products.”
FIG as a global umbrella organisation and ‘mother of all surveying and
surveyors’ has no and can not have personal values and ethics. But its
members and member organisations do have their individual or common values
and ethics based on religious, historic and cultural context, aspects and
But FIG has a clear mission and commitment! FIG and its members want to
serve society and to contribute building a more just, a more peaceful and
more sustainable world.
This means that FIG and its partners like IAG, ISPRS, ICA, IHO etc. on a
global stage as well as its members on local stage try to contribute to the
implementation of UNMDG, especially on the fields of property rights, secure
tenure, access to land, water and natural resources, on data management,
urban and rural resettlement and infrastructure development or try to prove
reliable and real time data from space by GNSS, remote sensing etc., that
means furthermore e.g. that FIG wants to support reducing the so-called
‘digital divide’ as it was recently mentioned again by UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan at the Information Society Summit in Tunis. Surveyors have
extraordinary skills in the field of SDI and GIS, they are part and partner
of the Information Society and they can provide for each country the
geo-referenced framework for NSDI and other applications. I am very happy
that this year at the FIG Working Week 2005 in Cairo all sister
organisations and related spatial information associations like GSDI or the
Global Mapping have established and joined the Joint Board of Geospatial
Information Societies (JBGIS), which I am currently honoured to chair. JBGIS
and all its members are committed to find solutions to use IC technologies
for building bridges for a better life, especially in poor and developing
countries like it was the hope in Tunis! But ICT is a key for each country
and economy – SDI and GIS are essential parts as well as our daily produced
survey data and information.
I spoke about values, ethics and attitudes. One decisive attitude to
reach our commitment and roles is to remove ‘silo’ thinking and acting of
disciplines and governmental institutions. Instead of ‘silos’ we need
interdisciplinary approaches especially by building and using geo-referenced
data base infrastructures thus achieving more comprehensive and sustainable
impact, i.e. well-balanced solutions. The reason for it is very simple and a
way of best convincing politicians and decision makers. About 80 % of daily
decisions on national or local level, either in economy, finances/taxation,
demography, spatial planning, environment, hazard areas, security,
infrastructure, housing, cultural heritage, sustain geographical names, etc.
is spatially or - like we say - geo-referenced!
That demonstrates clearly, surveying is a central pillar of each country
and its economy!
I am deeply convinced that we still have not reached the utmost of all
possibilities of especially GIS and SDI technologies managed by surveyors in
order to serve society and SD. To use all possibilities surveyors should not
be excellent technicians, producers and managers of data only but also
excellent ‘Managers of Property, Land, Marine and Construction’ according to
the motto ‘From Surveying to Serve Society’. The famous Spanish writer
Ortega y Gasset once said: “To be a good technician it is not enough to
be a good technician only.” What does this mean in my context? Surveyors
should play a visible role in society, and then should try to become
actively and additionally involved in fields of spatial planning, urban and
rural development, valuation, real estate management and decision making! In
fields which are traditionally not regarded as surveyors’ domains!
I know that this is not easy to reach. It is a question of attitude and
mindset again but it should be attempted – one reason is thus to better
understand the needs of society and institutions, e.g. for spatially enabled
LIS! My experience is more or less disappointing: If GIS people do not get
involved enough in local policy or spatial planning and land management
etc., a lot of their work remains a nice theory or model without much
Let me end this chapter with a very clear statement: Depending on the
history, tradition and other country context surveyors still play different
roles around the world. There is on one side the classical role of being
‘guarantees and custodians of property and precise survey engineering’ and
on the other side a more and more integrated and active role in decision
making on natural resources and environmental protection, in serving
changing social and economic needs of urban and rural societies, in disaster
and risk management, e.g. by using GPS and satellite positioning or imagery
and gravity field measurements, etc.
modern future oriented education and CPD
FIG’s role is to enhance all of these changing roles and especially to
support the different approaches to new activities due to changing
technologies and new chances for or threats to profession.
A main focus of FIG’s work lies on education and CPD as you can prove it
by reading a lot of specific FIG publications. The reason is very clear and
brings us back to the speech of Brunei minister to village heads: it is the
knowledge and resulting competence.
Besides of the right values and commitment besides of technologies and of
institutional framework, whose importance was recently underlined again by
the World Bank in its report ‘Doing Business in 2005: Removing obstacles
to growth’, besides of theses three aspects, one of the most decisive or
even the most important factor for shaping the change of our profession and
for serving community and sustainable development is education and – as a
twin brother/sister – CPD! All UN reports and national governments show and
know it: Education is the crucial key for and access to innovation, wealth,
better environment, poverty reduction and finally to more peace and equity.
Once again, I have to say that there exist different university education
models within FIG depending either on a more central European,
Spanish-Latin-American or Anglo-Saxon philosophy. According to this
situation one will meet different names (and contents) like Land Survey,
agrimensura, Geomatics, Geo-informatics and / or Geodesy!
One common truth must prevail in all models: The education should be
future oriented and comprehensive enough. It should not only be focussed on
modern survey technologies and techniques or on data gathering and
modelling, but also on the whole environment of neighbour disciplines and on
networking and collaboration with them.
Survey / Geomatics / Geodesy education should comprise at least and in
any case mathematics, physics, legal, socio-cultural, survey and some civil
engineering aspects, planning and information science, some economics and
skills in geo-basis data management, valuation, mapping and cartography. At
my Technical University of Munich we even have the ambitious goal to cover
the range ‘from the single parcel to the planet Mars’.
As a second goal we aim at the education of ‘well-grounded specialized
generalists’, who have got additionally a lot of social or soft skills thus
being better able to later play in the first rows! Specialization is needed
only for a few! A too early specialization is in my opinion contra
productive to our goal of playing a more important role in society.
To avoid being a study (and profession) of ‘second choice’, we should
address to and attract the best students. We should more offensively
convince them of a study (and profession) which is surely one of the most
interesting studies because it provides chances for each talent: for the
mathematical, analytically thinking, measuring and counting talent as well
as for more legal – administratively or for more creatively and holistically
planning, valuing, weighing and arguing people.
Let me very clearly say: Survey / Geodesy / Geomatics education should
everywhere aim at excellence both at study including curricula and students!
Otherwise I am afraid that other disciplines will abolish and force out us.
FIG Commission 2 provides a lot of information and conference proceedings on
education and even e-learning models! Education must be followed by a
life-long CPD (continuous professional development). FIG has spent much
effort on this topic too!
In a more and more globalized world there will be, at the end, no closed
markets anymore. More and more single markets will arise. We need technical
standards like ISO etc. as well as frameworks and rules on mutual
recognition of education and qualification. Under the chair of our Malaysian
representative Teo Hee Chai, FIG is working in this very important field
thus trying to get more equality amongst professionals!
Universities must also be aware of changing technologies, of changing
markets but especially also of changing society and global and national
challenges! This happens sometimes but still in too few universities! I
appreciate it very much that more and more universities have joined FIG as
an academic member. Thus they are members of the community of surveyors and
get worldwide information about what is happening within and around our
widespread and manifold profession.
4. FIG – a
global early warning system or seismometer for survey profession
Let me come to the end and to my final statement: Each profession needs
permanent information about the changing world. FIG and especially its ten
commissions can serve as a global early warning system because of being
represented in more than 110 countries and getting input from there. After
seven years of function in the FIG Council I can really say and confirm what
my SWOT analysis of FIG clearly shows: FIG is irrespective of some
weaknesses probably the most professionally managed umbrella organisation of
surveyors! Therefore I invite all countries and professionals who still are
not member to join FIG, which is highly appreciated and acknowledged by the
United Nations, the World Bank and by other global institutions.
I congratulate our new member association BIG again for having joined FIG
and having followed the affiliate member Department of Surveying Brunei
Darussalam. I am very sure that Brunei surveyors will enrich FIG with their
high expertise and specific experience, especially our commissions! I hope
that FIG and all of its members – of whom some are here – can give you same
valuable and needed advice too, especially about how Brunei can manage to
keep the balance within the triangle of sustainability!
Against the background of growing civil society and increasing
decentralization and subsidiarity all surveyors should proceed to play
manifold roles as ‘experts for low land realities’, whether as global and
local NGO’s like FIG and BIG or as officials and institutions like Survey
Department and Surveyor General: It is perhaps still my personal vision that
we should share and reach to become
- enablers for local people, CBO’s and NGO’s
- mediators between citizens and authorities
- advisors to politicians and state institutions.
I am confident that according to the UN Secretary General’s request ‘In
larger freedom …’ FIG will transform this vision to reality!
The 8th SEASC may hopefully be one of the first steps for the
transformation from vision to reality.
Finally I would like to acknowledge that this conference is an important
initiative to strengthen the profession in this booming region and that it
fits perfectly in our FIG policy of regionalization!
I wish you all best success!
See you again in Munich 2006!
Biographical information about President Magel on the FIG web site:
Univ. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Holger Magel
Director of Institute of Geodesy, GIS and Land Management
Technische Universität München
Institute of Geodesy, GIS
and Land Management
Tel: + 49 89 289 22535
Fax: + 49 89 289 23933