The IIAS organizes its flagship event every year around late June. The IIAS Conference is a scientific event targeting public administration scholars and professionals from all over the world. It takes place in English, to reflect on a contemporary theme through plenary sessions featuring invited speakers, and parallel sessions featuring speakers selected on basis of calls-for-contributions. The IIAS Conference also features a social program, aimed at nurturing networking opportunities among participants.

In the last 20 years, the IIAS Conference has been hosted in the cities listed below, around the following themes:

• 2001 – Athens (Greece), "Governance and Public Administration in the 21st Century: new trends and new techniques";
• 2002 – New Delhi (India), "Towards Quality Governance for Sustainable Growth and Development";
• 2003 – Yaoundé (Cameroon), "Shared Governance: combatting poverty and exclusion";
• 2004 – Seoul (South Korea), "E-governance: challenges and opportunities for democracy, administration and law";
• 2005 – Berlin (Germany), "Public Administration and Private Enterprise: co-operation, competition and regulation";
• 2006 – Monterrey (Mexico), "Transparency for better Governance";
• 2007 – Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), "Global Competitiveness and Public Administration: implications for education and training";
• 2008 – Ankara (Turkey), "International Aid and Public Administration";
• 2009 – Helsinki (Finland), "The History and Future of Nation building: the Role of Public Administrations, Civil Servants and Public Finances";
• 2010 – Bali (Indonesia), "Public Administration Facing New Dynamics: constraints, innovation and sustainability";
• 2011 – Lausanne (Switzerland), "Global Problems and National Regulations: Challenges to Regulatory Strategies";
• 2012 – Mérida (Mexico), "Socio Economic Priorities and Public Administration";
• 2013 – Manama (Bahrain), "Public Administration Futures: Professionalism and Leadership";
• 2014 – Ifrane (Morocco), "Rethinking Responsibility and Accountability of Public Administration in Times of Globalization, Decentralization and Privatization";
• 2015 – Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), "Trust in Public Administration";
• 2016 – Chengdu (China), "Building Capacity for Sustainable Governance";
• 2017 – Aix-en-Provence (France), "Migrations, Integration and Poverty: The Global Challenge for Governance and Public Administration";
• 2018 – Tunis (Tunisia), "Administrative Resilience";
• 2019 – Singapore, "Effective, Accountable, and Inclusive Governance";
• 2020 – Online Conference, "Public Governance for Climate Action";
• 2021 – Bela Bela (South Africa), "Public Administration in the Fourth Industrial Revolution".