Currently, the needs of the global population are not being met. The aim of the Commission on Cartography and Sustainable Development is to identify and employ cartographic practices and visualizations that promote understanding and improve decision making to achieve Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development is the process of meeting the necessities of the present without compromising the opportunities of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable Development addresses issues of environmental, social and economic justice and equity. Well-designed maps employing effective cartographic principles can illuminate strategies to reach a sustainable world.

The Commission on Cartography and Sustainable Development aims to foster knowledge and understanding that leads to action through the use of maps to ensure that current and future generations experience human rights and access to environmental resources needed to maintain a reasonable quality of life. Environmental and economic quality is inextricably linked to human equality and justice from the local to global scale. The causes of this inequity are complex. Maps and cartographic visualizations can help reduce complexity by showing current realities as well as future possibilities, to reveal spatial patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed. Sustainable Development requires changes to current understandings of development to improve human wellbeing through economic opportunity and development, environmental preservation, and social equity. Sustainable Development is pivotal to maintain a healthy and prosperous planet.

The vision of the Commission on Cartography and Sustainable Development is to provide pragmatic, conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and empirical basis for supporting and advancing Sustainable Development initiatives through cartography. Cartography can play a significant role in achieving Sustainable Development through reducing complexity, identifying where to employ local solutions to global challenges, indicating opportunities, illuminating injustice, and guiding informed decision-making processes.

Sustainable Development is an inherently interdisciplinary challenge and field. The Commission on Cartography and Sustainable Development will work to support and build off efforts of other existing ICA Commissions and Working Groups. Additionally, this commission is committed to building linkages between academia, intergovernmental agencies, partners in industry, national and local governments responsible for management geographic information and cartography. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) offer guidance, as have been agreed upon as a set of global priorities and are used as a starting point for this work group. For this reason, this work group will collaborate closely with the United Nations (UN), including but not limited to UN GGIM and the Economic and Social Council of the UN as well as with academic experts from economic, environmental, technical and social disciplines such as those from human geography, international relations, remote sensing, automated geography (GeoAI) and photogrammetry associated with computer vision, and environmental ecology to name a few. Thereby, the working group on Cartography and Sustainable Development puts forward the following Terms of Reference:


  • Advance the use of cartography to communicate effective Sustainable Development strategies by offering written visualization guides made available online and offering in person tutorials with governmental statistics and environmental agencies as the target audience.
  • Demonstrate how cartography is an effective tool to illuminate gaps, evaluate challenges and identify solutions faced at different (spatial and administrative) scales (or levels of geography and government) in terms of cartographic design, production and data management (missing data).
  • Illustrate, curate and share effective cartographic communication techniques for Sustainable Development initiatives for economic, environmental, educational and social phenomena.
  • Define short- and medium-term research goals that address key issues associated with building a sound theoretical and applied methodological base to support the production of maps and geographic information used to advance Sustainable Development. Results will be shared through a Special Issue of the Journal of Cartography and made Open Access.
  • Appraise the relevance of size in terms of data collection, analysis and visualization in combining global, national and local initiatives to achieve Sustainable Development – offering geovisualization and cartography solutions related to these specific challenges.
  • Actively seek to encourage participation in the commission from researchers and practitioners in the African, Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions, and those from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are currently underrepresented among our ICA membership. We commit to host at least one event in the African region during the term. We also seek, insofar as possible, to also open participation through electronic means, in workshops by using technologies such as Zoom to live cast and record events to improve access for those who cannot physically travel.