Day one of the Society’s largest ever Annual International Conference got off to an energetic start yesterday (Wednesday 27 August).
The conference officially opened on Tuesday evening, as is tradition, with the Chair’s Opening Plenary. However, Wednesday was the first full day, with 151 sessions taking place throughout the Society and at neighbouring Imperial College London.
“The building is buzzing,” Catherine Souch, Head of Research and Higher Education, said. “It’s incredible to see the building busy with leading and upcoming geographers from around the world. Everywhere I look, delegates are engaged in lively discussions.”
A world first
One session that attracted much attention focussed on the Wales Coastal Path. Chaired by Ordnance Survey’s Chris Parker, it asked how other countries around the world could learn from Wales’ example.
Innovative thinking and collective willpower succeeded in creating the first footpath to follow the whole coastline of a country, Chris Parker told the conference. Opened in May 2012, the footpath has been a “resounding success” and has created “transformational change” for those that live along and visit it.
Jane Davidson, the Minister for Environment and Sustainability in Wales (2007 – 2011), spoke at the conference. “I would love to see other nations start to build their own coast path projects. The Wales Coastal Path is delivering real benefits and allowing people to celebrate, embrace and experience our extraordinary landscape,” she said.
New wars, old wars
Professor Mary Kaldor of the London School of Economics kicked off proceedings on the main Ondaatje stage. Her lecture entitled ‘New wars, old wars’, analysed how contemporary wars in places like Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo are different from the old wars of our imagination and explored how this could inform peace-making policies.
One trouble is that, although the wars of today are significantly different from those of the past (such as World War I), peace-making efforts today continue to follow “old war thinking”.
Kaldor says that these outdated peace agreements are “basically truces between criminal groups that are given international legitimacy…they cannot last” and that “peacekeeping actually has very little capacity to keep the peace.”
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