ITA sets strategy for growth and development 18 June 2014
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
At its 40th Annual General Assembly at Iguassu Falls in Brazil, the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) focused on laying the foundations of a strategy for its future development and growth, including the establishment of a Young Members Group, a review of the Association’s governance, and a seven point plan for addressing the Association’s role in the international tunnelling and civil engineering community. Shani Wallis reports after attending the event in May.
Despite fears of a low attendance due to the internal travel arrangements, the WTC for 2014 at Iguassu Falls in Brazil turned out more successful than anticipated. More than 1,500 delegates attended the Congress and 51 of the 71 Member Nations were represented at the 40th ITA General Assembly.

A visit to the Falls was a must

Video report of the event

In presiding over his first General Assembly, ITA President Søren Degn Eskesen of Denmark applauded the growing success of the World Tunnel Congresses each year, and requested all host Member Nations to encourage attending delegates to join the Association, either as individual or corporate members, and to become more actively involved in the operation and activities of the Association. In his message President Eskesen made it clear that the strategy for his presidency is to strengthen the Association, both internally among Member Nations, as well as externally within the international world development movement.
Member Nations represented at the 40th General Assembly
South Africa Germany Saudi Arabia Argentina
Australia Austria Azerbaijan Belarus
Belgium Bhutan Bolivia Brazil
Bulgaria Canada Chile China
Colombia South Korea Costa Rica Croatia
Denmark Egypt Ecuador Spain
USA Finland France Greece
Hungary India Iran Iceland
Israel Italy Japan Mexico
Norway Holland Peru Poland
Portugal Romania UK Russia
Serbia Slovenia Sweden Switzerland
Czech Republic Thailand Turkey Ukraine
Member Nations not represented at the General Assembly
Algeria Cambodia UAE Indonesia
Kazakhstan Lao PDR Lesotho Macedonia
Malaysia Morocco Montenegro Myanmar
Nepal Panama Singapore Bosnia and
Venezuela Vietnam Slovakia  
The success of the WTC events of recent years is expressed in the financial contribution to the Association made by hosting organisations. This has amounted to more than €100,000 for the WTCs of Geneva (2013), Bangkok (2012), Finland (2011) and Canada (2010). The financial report from the Treasurer at the General Assembly confirmed a revenue of €756,000 for the 2013 financial year, set against outgoings of €637,474. On the down side, individual and corporate affiliate membership of the Association was down on 2013 to 285 Affiliate Members (192 corporate and 93 individual). Sponsorship of the Association, by comparison, was up, by one Prime Sponsor (Zoomlion of China) for a total of 15, and eight new supporters to a total of 52.
Young Members initiative
A significant item on the General Assembly agenda was approval for creation of a Young Members Group for tunnelling professionals of 35 years and younger. Promoted and well received last year by Member Nation UK, and its well-established Young Members group of the British Tunnelling Society (BTS), the vote in support of the ITAYM group was unanimous.
For the Group to go forward, each Member Nation is required to establish its own Young Members group, which is then the representative on the ITAYM group. In this effort, and in addition to the BTS Young Members group, there is an equally well-established group of young members in Australia with work ongoing to set up similar groups in Singapore, Denmark, Canada, the USA and elsewhere. In confirming approval of the strategy, Jurij Karlovsek of Australia was confirmed as first Chair of the Group, and Petr Salak of the UK as Vice Chair.

ITAYM Chair Jurij Karlovs (left) and Vice Chair Petr Salak

The main goals of the group are to:
  • provide a technical networking platform within the ITA for young professionals and students;
  • bridge the gap between generations and to network across all experience levels in the industry;
  • increase awareness of the tunnelling and underground space industry to new generations;
  • provide young professionals and students with a voice in the ITA, including the Working Groups, and to;
  • look after the next generation of tunnelling professionals and to pass on the aims and ideals of the ITA.
<Sir Alan Muir Wood addresses the WTC in 2002

Sir Alan Muir Wood addresses the WTC in 2002

Governance of the Association was another important item on the agenda. Introduced to the General Assembly by Member Nation Australia, the objective behind the initiative is to examine the ITA’s compliance with the Code of Ethics & Conduct for NGOs, an initiative of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and encourage more active involvement of Member Nations in determining the direction of the ITA and its activities.
The three-member review team confirmed that the ITA, as managed by the Executive Council, generally complies with the Code of Ethics & Conduct but that more interaction with Member Nations is needed and that more accountability and transparency by the ExCo to the Member Nations would foster that interaction. Some queries raised were a review of the structure of the Association; its conduct in relation to conflicts of interest among Executive Council members, and the ITA relationships with for-profit organisations, and its policies for use of funds. A series of questions were presented to Member Nation representatives for them to review their assessment of relations with the ExCo and other managing bodies of the Association, including the Secretariat and the Committees and the Working Groups. A follow up report by the group was scheduled for the 41st General Assembly in 2015. The discussion called to mind a presentation by the late Sir Alan Muir Wood (1921 - 2009) - a co-founder of the ITA as well as its first President and Honorary Live President - at the WTC and General Assembly in Sydney in 2002. It was here that he reiterated the founding principles of the ITA, and expressed his concern that the ExCo and the Member Nation representatives remain faithful to those principles.
Strategy for the future
In support of those discussions, and in efforts to maintain the relevance of the Association into the future, a taskforce working on the matter presented its vision statement and a seven-point strategy for clarifying the mission, goals and actions of the ITA. These are:
  1. Consolidate/activate Member Nations – particularly newly joined Member Nations.
  2. Improve communication and functioning of Working Groups and Committees.
  3. Expand industry relations.
  4. Encourage knowledge-sharing through education and training.
  5. Create and develop an ITA Young Members Group.
  6. Promote the use of underground space.
  7. Improve communication with Member Nations, the industry and the public.
In assessing the current health of the Association the taskforce noted the following as strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats:
  • a global network of 71 Member Nations;
  • known inside the industry, but not sufficiently outside;
  • growth of urban development that requires more use of underground space;
  • many competing conferences and organisations that split the capacity and resources within the industry for support, interest and association;
  • covering all types of the underground work;
  • a need to increase representation from a low level of contractors and clients;
  • respond to the needs of education and training;
  • lack of youth and middle management involvement, an issue being addressed by support of the Young Members initiative;
  • it represents an international and unbiased voice in the field of underground space globally;
  • most of the work is done on a voluntary basis, a situation that has both pros and cons;
  • improve communication, an issue addressed with the appointment of a professional media organisation in 2013 to better co-ordinate the marketing and communication needs of the Association, both within its own arena as well as in the broader community.
Further presentations at the General Assembly confirmed commitment to foster contacts with the international sister associations including PIARC, ISRM, ISSMGE, ITIG, IFME, ISOCARP, ACUUS, ICLEI and IRF, as well as with UN partner organisations, specifically with UN-ISDR and UN Habitat. In reporting the close of a three-year programme of promoting underground infrastructure as a vital element in the development and preparedness of resilient cities to future threats from natural disasters, global climate change and the mass migration and rapidly expanding density of mega conurbations, the Chair of the ITA Committee on Underground Space (ITACUS), Han Admiraal, warned of losing ground in the work completed during the programme to broaden exposure of the ITA, particularly through the mass media, and by creating new connections and collaborations with other organizations - particularly IFME, ISOCARP, ICLEI and ACUUS.
In his statement, the ITACUS Chair suggested that “the ITA needs to do three things. First we need to accept the fact that we have started something [by progressing the three-year programme] and that people are now looking for answers. Second, we need to come together and come up with viable concepts and carry them through. Not by waiting for a request for proposals to come to us, but by coming up with private initiatives and offering those to cities that need them most. Third, and most important, we need to change our ways of [urban development] thinking; we need to change our ways of working. That is scary and you could say it is the bad news. The good news is that there is a future for tunnelling and underground space. People that matter are talking about it. Three years ago we only dreamt about that, now it is happening. ITACUS calls on Member Nations to join us in two new activity groups on urban drainage and on underground freight transport. We have never, as the ITA, been so close to getting the attention of the world. We must act now to move forward and ITACUS is committed to carrying this through.”
In reporting their activities, the Working Groups and Committees of the ITA presented four new publications:
Guidelines for the Provision of Refuge Chambers in Tunnels Under Construction by Working Group 5 on Health and Safety in Works;
Guidelines on Monitoring Frequencies in Urban Tunnelling by the ITATech Activity Group on Monitoring;
Guidelines on best practices for segment backfilling by the ITATech Activity Group on Excavation;
An engineering methodology for performance-based fire safety design of underground rail systems by ITACOSUF, the Committee on Operational Safety and Underground Facilities.
These and many other documents are available for free pdf download on the ITA website and are open for further feedback and comment.
ITA Open Session
For its traditional Open Session programme on Tuesday morning, Member Nation representative Alexandre Gomes of Chile convened a group of presentations and a discussion panel to explore the trend of increased crossover between the civil tunnelling and the raw resources mining industries. While the use of civil tunnelling equipment and techniques are being readily adopted by the mining industry, particularly in South America, the move by civil tunnelling contractors into the mining industry for procurement of development works is not so easy. TBMs and rock support designs, for example, are being used increasingly for development of accesses to new deposits but engaging civil contractors to undertake the work, it was suggested, will take a review of the contracts that govern the work and an examination of the language, attitudes and expectations of each of the parties signing up to those contracts.
In closing the General Assembly, Brazil passed the flag of the ITA to Croatia as Member Nation host of the 2015 WTC and 42nd ITA General Assembly in Dubrovnik in May 2015. The following year the USA will be the host nation for a WTC and General Assembly in San Francisco in April 2016 and during the session in Brazil, Norway was accepted as host nation for the 2017 WTC event in Bergen.
TunnelTalk looks forward to meeting at the coming events and wishes old friends and new colleagues productive and profitable business and activity in the meantime.
WTC Geneva marks milestones for the ITA - TunnelTalk, June 2013
Obituary - Sir Alan Muir Wood, 1921-2009 - TunnelTalk, February 2009
Video: 39th ITA General Assembly and WTC2013 - TunnelCast, June 2013
In search of resilient cities - TunnelTalk, December 2011
Improving safety for hyperbaric interventions - TunnelTalk,February 2014
New access drives for mighty mine operation - TunnelTalk, September 2011
Chilean mines invest in underground expansion - TunnelTalk, July 2012

Details for WTC2015, WTC2016 and others in the TunnelTalk Diary Dates
Free pdf downloads of ITA publications

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