The 12th General Assembly of the International Cartographic Association, held in Durban, South Africa, 16 August 2003, has adopted the ICA Strategic Plan 2003–2011. In this strategic plan the following definitions are used:
- A map is a symbolised representation of geographical reality, representing selected features or characteristics, resulting from the creative effort of its author’s execution of choices, and is designed for use when spatial relationships are of primary relevance.
- Cartography is the discipline dealing with the art, science and technology of making and using maps.
- Geographic Information Science (GIScience) refers to the scientific context of spatial information processing and management, including associated technology as well as commercial, social and environmental implications. Information processing and management include data analysis and transformations, data management and information visualisation.
The Strategic Plan starts with the following mission statement (leadership statement for action):
This mission statement is based on the following vision: to see…
- Cartography and GIScience applied to their full potential in science and society,
- ICA recognised as the world authoritative body for Cartography and GIScience,
- ICA recognised for outstanding service to its members,
- ICA, as the leading authority for Cartography and GIScience, attracting membership from national Cartographic and GIScience societies, universities, government and business and commercial organisations, as well as individuals from every country of the world.
Subsidiary ICA targets for accomplishing the vision/mission are:
- to contribute to the understanding and solution of world-wide problems through the use of Cartography and GIScience in decision-making processes,
- to foster the national and international use of geospatially referenced environmental, economic and social information; and to encourage introduction of a focused geospatial basis for national and international statistical information,
- to provide a global forum for discussion of Cartography and GIScience,
- to facilitate the transfer of new cartographic and geographic information (GI) technology and knowledge between and within nations, especially to the developing nations,
- to carry out or to promote multi-national cartographic and GI research in order to solve scientific and applied problems
- to enhance education in Cartography and GIScience in the broadest sense through publications, seminars and conferences,
- to promote the use of professional and technical standards in Cartography and GIScience, and
- to support map-related research in specific topics such as those concerning children, history, theory, and the visually impaired.
The Association works with national and international governmental and commercial bodies, and with other international scientific societies, to achieve these aims.