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The analysis of marginalised areas and peoples demonstrates that as a consequence of global, regional and localised forces marginal regions worldwide are under-going significant changes due to the volatility of external and internal political, social and economic processes which impact on them. The process of globalisation is having profound positive and negative effects, on nations, regions, localities, people and communities.

The Commission's and Study Group's experience as outlined here constitutes a solid, logical and challenging extension of what has been achieved thus far. Further regional, physical and human disparities will continue to evolve from global change and the ongoing processes of globalisation and deregulation. The significance of marginalisation will increase economically, politically, and culturally in the new century. It is therefore important to further the understanding of the spatial character of marginality, the spatial dynamics of the marginalisation process, and, the nature of local and regional response to such realities.

The Purview

The Commission strives to facilitate research collaboration, particularly, in the developing world or peripheral areas of the developed world, where people and places are increasingly being marginalised from the economic mainstream or pre-existing marginality is being enhanced. In this context, and by extension, issues of environmental and resource degradation cannot be overlooked.

Within this purview there is no presupposition that the processes of marginalisation and globalisation are inherently negative on affected people and places, since, in many instances, these processes have provoked a variety of creative and innovative economic, social, political and cultural responses. In addition, some areas may in fact become "de-marginalised" if they are able to compete successfully in a new global system.

The flourishing of local cultures, political separatism and the increasing significance of local economic development all bear testimony to the dual reality of the global: local world-dynamic in which we live. Grass-roots and civil society movements are playing increasingly prominent roles within societies, particularly those which have been marginalised.

These trends require a clearer understanding and definition of what marginalisation is, and more importantly how it is playing itself out at the local and community levels.

Major Research Objectives

Marginality is a phenomenon not bound to any particular region or society of the world nor to any specific scale. The Commission will continue to pursue the following research objectives:

    1. To further the understanding of marginality and the processes of marginalisation within the context of globalisation, through the study and analysis of factors that contribute to the dynamics and structures of spatial marginality at various scales,

  1. To analyse marginality as the result of human decisions, leading to the understanding of the role of various agents in those processes, and how they respond to prevailing conditions,

  2. To develop comparative approaches in order to identify various types of marginality and local and regional responses to put them into perspective and to assess their role in an increasingly globalised world,

  3. To study policy responses to economic and societal problems in marginal regions in relation to the sustainability concepts of local, regional and societal development, and to study the human response to global change, including its implications for marginalisation.

Note: The use and development of appropriate theory and methodology will be involved in each of the above.

The Focal Point

The forces of globalisation are not accepted wholesale by all countries and national and local differences are a critical issue in the dynamic world of which we are a part. Political recognition accorded to regionally distinct ethnic and cultural groups has parallels with the recent importance attached by bodies such as the OECD, World Bank and the UN to the concepts of local self-reliance and local development. It is within this fluid environment of change, isolation, integration, marginalisation and development that this commission believes academic attention should be focussed.

Our focus is not on globalisation or regional / local development as isolated entities, which might overlap with the defined niches of other commissions. Rather, we see our focus as being the:

  • critical evaluation of the consequences of globalisation on people and places, with particular emphasis on those areas which might be regarded as being marginalised;

  • inter-linked implications on peoples and places of marginalisation and globalisation;

  • increasingly interlinked world, in which we see the increasing relevance of regional and local cultural and political identities and diversity and the associated foci on regional and local development in all spheres from economic to educational to linguistic; and,

  • important contextual environmental considerations, since issues of resource conservation and exploitation are intimately linked to patterns and processes of global interaction and economic processes, but they also relate to the rise of what are both global and local conservation ethics.

Recent work has revealed that the concept of marginality is a multi-faceted and dynamic phenomenon (see bibliography of the Study Group and the Commission).

While marginalisation tends to increase with the current socio-economic and political processes of globalisation and deregulation, it is never a unidirectional process, as a look back into history since the Industrial Revolution will clearly demonstrate. It is also a relative and complex concept that depends on the prevailing socio-economic and political systems.

The research and publications of the IGU Commission on Evolving Issues of Geographical Marginality in the Early 21st Century World emphasize the need for further in-depth consideration of continuing and new issues related to the

    • spatial aspects of marginalised peoples;

    • environments they inhabit;

    • impact of globalisation; and,

    • regional and local responses which these considerations help to catalyse.

These are complex issues stressing the need to delineate the nature of these societal problems and the nature of potential new policy and solutions that need to be considered.

In recognition of its applied perspective Commission CO8.27 formulates its terms of reference to reflect the reality that globalisation

    • is a key determining force operating in the world which has implications for all nations and peoples - both the marginal and those in the mainstream;

    • can catalyse local and regional responses at a variety of levels and in a variety of forms.

The focus of the current Commission CO8.27 was consolidated in 2003 out of the Commission onEvolving Issues of Geographical Marginality in the Early 21st Century World and the earlier Study Group, which shared these inherent foci, in order to give greater clarity to our focus and interests, and to publicise our activities to a broader academic audience. This did not signify a new research direction but confirmed the continuing focus on those issues which have been pursued since 1992.

Commission CO8.27 is particularly concerned to encourage greater participation from the countries of the South and, in this spirit, the current Chair is from a developing country.

Themes for the period 2005 - 2008

The following themes are proposed for the second period of the Commission:

  • The Global Challenge and Marginalisation (2005, meeting to be held in Switzerland)

  • Local and Regional responses to Globalisation and Marginalisation (2006, meeting to be held in Australia)

  • Critical reflections on local and regional responses: perspectives from the North and the South (2007, meeting planned in Japan)

  • The Way forward: local social movements in Marginal areas (2008, meeting planned in North Africa / Italy)

These four themes are the guidelines for the research to be carried out during 2005-2008 and on which reports will be delivered at the annual meetings.

The Issues

Issues supporting the above themes

    • The context and methodologies leading to the delineation and understanding of process and structure issues in marginality.

  • Defining marginalisation in a changing world system.

  • The structure of the interrupted continuum of marginality that exists from urban to rural and north to south areas.

  • The nature of Globalisation and its effects, globally, nationally, regionally and locally.

  • Spatial and social responses to Globalisation and Marginalisation.

  • The role of the recent volatility in economic, political and social change in analysing marginality in both developed and less developed areas.

  • The changing role of communication, technology and industrial and societal organisational structure in analysing marginality.

  • The challenge of growing, stagnant and declining areas in the consideration of planning and policy development.

  • The importance of scale (macro, micro and in situ) in evaluating global, national, regional and local marginalisation of areas and peoples and their local and regional responses.

  • The role of emerging political mergers and unions (e.g. European Union) and economic associations (NAFTA, etc.) in changing the nature of the approaches to the consideration of marginalisation issues.

  • The consequences of current political fragmentation processes on marginalisation and marginal regions.

  • Examples of contingent, systemic, leveraged, collateral, and self-imposed marginality at various scales.

  • Unintended new marginalities resulting from regional processes.

  • Geographic marginality and the spatial organisation of the world-economy: the role of free-trade and enterprise zones, TNCs, and international unions.

  • Marginality and public health.

  • Physical resource endowment vs. dynamic human causation based marginality.

  • Physical and societal dimensions of marginality at different scales, international, national, regional, metropolitan, in situ.

  • Structure of persistent and volatile marginality, political and social change in analysing marginality in both developed and less developed areas.

  • Grassroots responses to marginalisation.

    • Environmental marginalisation and demarginalisation.

Final Remarks

Looking back at the past four years' work, the Commission believes that its achievements have been solid and positive. The proceedings of its annual meetings have been under a continuing publication contract with Ashgate publishers (Aldershot, UK) who have created a new book series on marginality issues. In addition, the Commission has attracted young researchers from an increasing number of countries, in particular Latin America, bringing their experience and contribution to the problem of marginality and marginal regions.

One of the Commission's special efforts was to encourage the participation of Geographers from the Developing World assisted by limited funding from the IGU to subsidise attendance. Any reduction of these subsidies will make such initiatives impossible in the future.