(A preparatory conference to UNCED of universities from across the world)
Over the period 8-11 December 1991, the presidents and senior representatives of 33 universities from 10 countries on 5 continents met in Halifax, Canada to take stock of the role of universities regarding the environment and development. They were joined by a number of senior representatives from business, the banking community, governments, and non-governmental organizations. The meetings were sponsored by the International Association of Universities, the United Nations University, the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada and Dalhousie University, Canada, which also provided the detailed planning and secretariat support.
At the end of the meetings, the following declaration was released by the conference:
Human demands upon the planet are now of a volume and kind that, unless changed substantially, threaten the future well-being of all living species. Universities are entrusted with a major responsibility to help societies shape their present and future development policies and actions into the sustainable and equitable forms necessary for an environmentally secure and civilised world.
As an international community marshals its endeavours for a sustainable future focused upon the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil in 1992, universities in all countries are increasingly examining their own roles and responsibilities. At Talloires France in October 1990, a conference of university presidents from every continent, held under the auspices of Tufts University of the United States, issued a declaration of environmental commitment that has attracted the support of more than 100 universities from dozens of countries. At Halifax, Canada, in December 1991, the specific challenge of environmentally sustainable development was addressed by the presidents of universities from Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, as well as by the senior representatives of the International Association of Universities, the United Nations University and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
The Halifax meeting added its voice to those many others world-wide that are deeply concerned about the continuing widespread degradation of the Earth’s environment, about the pervasive influence of poverty on the process, and about the unsustainable environmental practices now so widespread. The meeting expressed the belief that solutions to these problems can only be effective to the extent that the mutual vulnerability of all societies, in the south and in the North, is recognised, and the energies and skills of people everywhere be employed in a positive, co-operative fashion. Because the educational, research and public service roles of universities enable them to be competent, effective contributors to the major attitudinal and policy changes necessary for a sustainable future, the Halifax meeting invited the dedication of all universities to the following actions:
(1) To ensure the voice of the university be clear and uncompromising in its ongoing commitment to the principle and practice of sustainable development within the university, and at the local, national and global levels.
(2) To utilise the intellectual resources of the university to encourage a better understanding on the part of society of the inter-related physical, biological and social dangers facing the planet Earth.
(3) To emphasise the ethical obligation of the present generation to overcome those current malpractice’s of resource utilisation and those widespread circumstances of intolerable human disparity, which lie, at the root of environment unsustainability.
(4) To enhance the capacity of the university to teach and practice sustainable development principles, to increase environmental literacy, and to enhance the understanding of environmental ethics among faculty, students and the public at large.
(5) To cooperate with one another and with all segments of society in the pursuit of practical capacity-building and policy measures to achieve the effective revision and reversal of those current practices which contribute to environmental degradation, to South-North disparities an the inter-generational inequity.
(6) To employ all channels open to the university to communicate these undertakings to UNCED, to governments and to the public at large.
Done at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, the 11th day of December, 1991.
Creating a Common Future: An Action Plan for Universities.
Follow up to the Halifax Conference on University Action for Sustainable Development, December 9-11, 1991. Halifax: Lester Pearson Institute for International Development, Dalhousie University, 1992. This pamphlet is issued as part of the follow-up activities to the University Action for Sustainable Development Conference held in Halifax, December 9-11, 1991.
“The justification for our existence as universities is that we must make a difference to the human condition, to the social and economic conditions of humankind. Even if one accepts that we are in the business of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, we are still responsible in terms of the development of our peoples.” Walter Kamba, Vice-Chancellor, University of Zimbabwe and President, International Association of Universities
University presidents and senior officials from universities, governments, the business community and NGOs from five continents met in Halifax, Canada in December, 1991 to discuss the role of universities in improving the capacity of countries to address environment and development issues.
An important and somewhat similar process had been initiated at the Tufts European Centre in Talloires, France in October, 1990. It had become clear to the Halifax conference organizers that the UNCED meetings, planned for Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, must be widely seen to be a catalyst for serious efforts to steer the world towards sustainable development patterns. It was also clear that the university community must be challenged to re-think and to re-construct many of its traditional activities and frameworks in order to play a leadership role in a world at serious risk of environmental destruction.
The conference was organized by the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada, the International Association of Universities, the United Nations University, and Dalhousie University. Support was received from the Department of External Affaires and International Trade Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Province of Nova Scotia. Mr. Ivan Head, past President of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) served as conference chairman. Among those delivering key-note addressed were the Hon. Jean Charest, Minister of the Environment, Canada; Professor Walter Kamba, President of the I.A.U. and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe; and Mr. John Bell, chair of the Canadian Delegation to UNCED.
In readiness for the conference at Rio, key papers from the conference are being published in a special issue of Higher Education Policy, the journal of the International Association of Universities. The detailed proceedings of the conference are being published by Dalhousie University and will be available, upon request after May 1, 1992.
This brochure contains two essential outcomes of the Halifax conference:
A follow-up plan of action, as a basis for practical strategic plans for sustainable development—details of which are now being refined and pursued by many of the universities represented in Halifax and by their ‘converts’. Emphasis is to be placed on concrete actions at home as well as the vigorous and strategic use of worldwide networks.
A Declaration, done at Halifax, which provides a general direction being pursued by the universities involved. Emphasis is to be placed on education and training, on research and policy information, on inter-disciplinary work and on a pro-active role by universities for sustainable development.
Those in attendance at the Halifax conference believe the UNCED process is a critical step towards an environmentally sustainable future and pledge their support. They invite their colleagues in other universities and institutions to help ensure the long-term success of the UNCED challenge to create a sustainable and more equitable world.
“We try to enlarge the activities of the universities not only on the academic side but also in the action programs because of pressing physical needs and because of the ethical aspect of the problem of the poor. With respect to the environment, the tensions between those who have been successful in the process of development and those who have been left behind is very, very serious.” Sukadji Ranuwihardjo, Director of Higher Education, Indonesia
AN ACTION PLAN FOR UNIVERSITIES
This plan 'model' is strategic in approach --not detailed. It is intended to provide a clear sense of direction for a number of core activities to which many others may be added and, of course, from which some may be subtracted. Examples of other possible activities which originated at the conference appear in the recommendations which follow this plan.
This plan outline identifies short- and long-term goals at the local and regional, national, and international levels. The short-term goals are those to be effected between December 12, 1991 and June, 1992; the longer-term goals are those which continue past the June 1992 UNCED Conference. While this preliminary plan focuses on the period leading up to the UNCED Conference, it also examines some mechanisms for designing longer term strategies.
1. LOCAL - REGIONAL FRAMEWORK
The local-regional framework comprises actions which may be instituted within the university itself, and those which require that the university interact within the geographic region where it is situated.
Within the university itself, the following actions might be considered in the short-term:
Unit/focal Point Identification: the first step recommended is to identify a unit or focal point responsible for developing a sustainable development strategy for the university. Minimally the unit/focal point would be an individual: ideally the unit should be a small task group linked clearly to an administrative unit in the university for support purposes. The unit must work comfortably across the university system --so the working style will be important. It should not be a new centre or bureaucratic body: it is simply to be seen as a small task force to help refine and launch these initiatives. The president of the university should work closely with this unit to demonstrate personal commitment to the process.
University Sustainable Development Strategy: It is suggested that within two months of establishment, the sustainable development unit should have completed an initial sustainable development strategy for its particular university (i.e. by March 31, 1992 a the latest). The emphasis should be on actions and results -- not on lengthy papers. Such a strategy could have two time frameworks: (1) up to June 1992; (2) longer-term. Some longer-term, outputs can/should be started before June, 1992. A more refined strategy can be designed in the later period (e.g. April - August 92).
Practical Tasks: It is suggested that, in the initial strategy, a number of clear and operationally practical tasks be identified. For the shorter-term, each university strategy might include the following eight activities:
A meeting between the president and senior management of the university to explain the conference and its outcome and to distribute copies of the key conference papers (including the Halifax Declaration and this follow-up strategy). The group would determine the best approach for follow-up in their particular university. It is suggested this be undertaken in January, 1992. The Board of Governors and also Senate should, it is suggested, be informed of the process underway and the proposed university specific strategy should be tabled at senate, once it is drafted.
A meeting between the president and other university presidents within the province/state/region should be arranged to explain the conference outcome to those not represented and to encourage them to endorse the Halifax Declaration and to participate in this process. Some regional mechanisms for follow-up might well occur and should be encouraged. It is suggested this should be undertaken in January 1992. Obviously it can be added to the agenda of routine meetings.
Each university represented (and endorsing the Halifax Declaration) might organize at least one substantial public presentation on sustainable development and the challenge represented by UNCED, at which time reference should also be made by the organizers to this process. The focus should be on the challenge and content of sustainable development, not narrowly on the process of UNCED itself. The sessions might include panelists from several disciplines (sciences, law, social sciences, arts). Obviously the more ambitious the event(s) the better -- but since this should not be viewed as a single event, but the start of a process, it is important to make a beginning. The suggested initial session is before the end of March, 1992, so a maximum number of students can participate.
Each university might encourage faculty to review their course curricula and also their research agendas to see how sustainable development might best be integrated in and between disciplines. This should not be introduced in a "threatening" way. Special workshops for faculty on sustainable development ideas might be considered as one way of approaching the situation. (To be started before June, 1992.)
Each university might sponsor a series of university prizes in sustainable development, linked to UNCED. They could be for papers contributed by students and also by faculty from any discipline.
Each university might review all university linkage projects to explore how sustainable development elements are being or might be addressed.
Each university might undertake a review of its own "sustainable development" impact on the region, e.g. from recycling paper to "green architecture". This goes beyond a narrow tradition of "environmental audit", to include a proactive dimension.
Each university might participate in a "Sustainable Development Day", linked to UNCED in June, 1992.
These eight activities only represent a starting approach. Obviously the sustainable development units in each university might add new activities, drawing from the Recommendations for Follow-Up to this strategy and adding to it also.
Within each university in the long term: Proposals for the longer-term are not identified in this strategic plan, but a number of ideas are listed in the Recommendations for Follow-Up. A longer-term strategic plan for sustainable development should be identified as an outcome of the work of the particular university units for sustainable development and their work. A representative task force from these universities could be set up to design the draft for a longer-term strategy to be completed by May 31, 1992 (in advance of UNCED). It could be along the lines of this initial plan, i.e. some eight or so strategic steps, with additional recommendations in an annex that can be routinely enlarged upon as ideas are exchanged within the network of universities. The strategic steps are likely to include curricula and teaching steps, new or reinforced research programmes across disciplines, inter-university linkage arrangements, new approaches with NGOs and governments, etc.
With respect to the interaction of the university and the local region in the short-term each university might undertake the following:
University presidents and representatives from the sustainable development units might meet with the Minister of the Environment of their province to brief the Minister on the process underway. Similar meetings could be held with appropriate representatives of chambers of commerce, NGOs, federal departments, municipal governments. The precise mechanism would vary from province to province; for example, while the initial meeting with the responsible minister would be a special meeting, the other meetings could be through the mechanism of adding the subject to appropriate conferences that are already being organized, at lunch-time speeches that the presidents may already be scheduled to give to Chambers of Commerce, and so on.
Each university might arrange to give a series of talks in schools on sustainable development and UNCED.
Each university might work with the Citizens Support Programme, linked to the Ministry of the Environment and UNCED, in order to contribute ideas and help make it effective.
Each university might meet with local NGOs to see how they can work effectively together for sustainable development (e.g. see the ideas in the Recommendations for Follow-Up re: possibilities in cooperation with the Red Cross).
Each University might meet with representatives of key sectors in the province (e.g. banks, forest industry representatives) to work out ways to cooperate for sustainable development
Each university might meet with local town/city councils to see how they might cooperate in support of sustainable development.
2. NATIONAL FRAMEWORK
The national framework comprises both actions within the national university community, and the role of the universities within the national fabric.
Within the national university community, in the short-term where there are overall bodies representative of the national community of universities, they might be encouraged to establish a sustainable development advisory group which would comprise a mix of university presidents and members of the sustainable development units. The groups should meet by March 1992 at the least, to review progress at the national level -- following up on the Halifax Conference and preparing both for UNCED and for a longer-term sustainable development national university-wide strategy. This could be an integrative process linked clearly with the various university strategies for sustainable development.
A list of possible shorter and longer-term outputs appears in the Recommendations for Follow-Up, from which to make a start. In the Canadian context, the body responsible for this work will presumably be the AUCC. In the case of Canada, the secretariat of the AUCC will be drafting a preliminary set of goals and strategic plan for the AUCC regarding sustainable development.
With respect to the role of the universities within the nation, in the short-term, both individually and through the appropriate national body (e.g. AUCC), the universities might draw up a number of activities in support of sustainable development at the national level.
Four particular activities are suggested:
Work with the national (Canadian) delegation for UNCED, preparatory to UNCED.
Review the key public policy documents on sustainable development and write critiques of them both to assist the sponsor (e.g. CIDA) and by way of encouraging public awareness and interest.
Support national citizen participation programmes through the provision of skills and advocacy.
Approach the national media services (e.g. CBC) to identify practical ways the universities can contribute to national programmes on sustainable development.
A longer-term strategy will need to be prepared by the national bodies (e.g. AUCC).
3. INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK
At the international level, universities in the short-term, could take the following actions:
Support the President of the IAU, in cooperation with UNU, to represent the international university community at UNCED.
Establish an appropriate international council for sustainable development linked coherently to the IAU. IAU to draft a proposed mandate, in cooperation with UNU and Halifax Conference organizers.
Endorse the idea and assist the Rector of the University of Rio de Janeiro in his proposal to organize a parallel university conference to UNCED
Push to have environmental education placed higher on the UNESCO agenda.
Promote the concept that a major international prize in sustainable development be initiated.
Build sustainable development concepts into all the international linkage programmes of those universities present and signatories to the Halifax Declaration drawing upon the key principles found in the EMDI model, insofar as these are appropriate. Develop new programmes in sustainable development between the universities at the conference.
A longer-term strategy will need to be prepared -- presumably the proposed international council might be responsible for this and it would build on the UNCED lessons.
“If the university is to provide leadership in sustainable development, must it not first set its own house in order? Can universities provide leadership in debate on the social and ethical dimensions of sustainable development at a time when many question the university’s role in the development of ethics and ethical positions? And yet if the university does not provide such leadership and does not produce graduates who genuinely live the principles of sustainable development, who will, and what hope is there for us?” Howard Clark, President, Dalhousie University
THE HALIFAX DECLARATION RECOMMENDATIONS
These ideas were put forward by persons attending the conference and are not ranked, nor were they formally ratified by the conference.
identifying a unit focal point on campus to be responsible for developing a sustainable development strategy for the university;
completing an initial sustainable development strategy for the university by the sustainable development unit within two months of establishment;
a meeting between the president and senior management of the university to explain the Halifax UASD Conference;
organizing at least one public panel presentation on the challenge and content of sustainable development and how this relates to UNCED;
a commitment to encourage faculty to review curricula to see how sustainable development concepts might be integrated into their courses. Some form of support seminar may be necessary for this idea to work;
sponsoring prizes in sustainable development linked to UNCED. These might be for students, faculty, and administration;
examining all university linkage projects to explore how sustainable development elements might be infused;
conducting an environmental audit of the university;
participation in a Sustainable Development Day linked to UNCED in June, 1992. Universities around the world could ideally agree on the same date;
examining the university in the context of the Green Plan (or comparable documents in other countries);
examining existing research programs to see how they might contribute more to sustainable development imperatives;
endorsing the Talloires declaration;
the distribution of the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy and the Tufts University papers dealing with education and curriculum development (or comparable documents) to students and faculty for comment and response;
designing new and collaborative environment and sustainable development research projects involving faculty and students;
meetings with faculty, students, and the Board of Governors to respond to the challenge of how the university will deal with the sustainable development;
increasing the number of fellowships for students from developing countries to study in Canada;
encouraging innovative educational technologies for communicating environmental issues;
developing more partnerships with business and industry for sustainable development;
developing more partnerships with NGOs in order to learn about their work with sustainable development and also as a means of contributing to it. Some examples, using the Red Cross and Red Crescent as a model, might include:
exploring cooperation with national and international Red Cross or Red Crescent societies and then linking university research to support the societies' field operations for sustainable development,
exploring methods of twinning university projects with Red Cross or Red Crescent societies' projects to see how they can reinforce each other,
helping reinforce South/South cooperative projects with the Red Cross/Crescent. This is a Red Cross priority approach and is frequently put into practice,
linking some centers of excellence with Red Cross/Crescent centres of strength, e.g. the Bangladesh cyclone centers and early warning systems; Finnish Red Cross blood bank and research; several disaster preparedness centres which are linked to sustainable development, such as in Ethiopia,
supporting research, advocacy, and training into- the ever-growing plight of refugees, working with the Red Cross/Crescent or UNHCR,
encouraging faculty to be available for front-line environment project work with the Red Cross for which advice is frequently needed,
cooperating with the Red Cross in such fields as women and sustainable development and bringing the handicapped more fully into society,
cooperating with the Red Cross/Crescent to provide training for sustainable development to persons willing to work as Red Cross/Crescent volunteers.
publicizing the student winners of the Globe '92 Environmental Audit Competition and supporting annual event among Canadian universities;
encouraging university libraries to purchase more documents written or published in the South;
examining the realignment of existing academic units to address sustainable development while at the same time not compartmentalizing the theme;
building more South/North research projects as a means of learning about sustainable development from both perspectives;
enabling and encouraging more South/South cooperation in linkage projects;
developing teaching teams to serve as models for interdisciplinary research;
fostering two-way exchanges of personnel to promote capacity building for sustainable development;
establishing chairs in sustainable development and sponsoring links between universities for sharing speakers in this field;
designing continuing education programs with respect to environmental issues for NGOs, public service units, and businesses;
designing an environmental literacy program that would be widely available and encouraged;
meeting with local town and city councils to see how they might cooperate in support of sustainable development;
developing forums for awareness and information exchange, education, and public debate;
designing interdisciplinary seminars which examine a sample of university linkages from the point of view of sustainable development;
encouraging leading issue research programs and teaching orientations that foster inter-disciplinary work;
supporting a network on universities and sustainable development within the region;
encouraging outward bound sustainable development projects that reach across the university and into the regions where the university is situated;
establishing a prestigious prize to encourage far-reaching analysis and thought on sustainable development;
funding scholarships in sustainable development;
forming think-tanks, with people drawn from government, industry, and academe to examine the interaction of sustainable development with particular disciplines;
examining appropriate technology and recognize that to be "appropriate" technology must be environmentally sound, economically viable, and relevant in the social context;
assessing community needs for environmental information, assessment, and technology transfer and seeing how university programs might respond;
examining the Environmental Management Development in Indonesia Project model for its application to linkages;
developing fund raising methods for sustainable development to determine the applicability of innovative approaches, such as debt-for-nature swaps, developed by organizations like Conservation International;
reviewing all linkage programs to see how sustainable development elements can be injected;
adjusting the university reward system to account for community service and outreach as a balance for other criteria for tenure and promotion;
examining how indigenous knowledge might be given greater weight in curricula;
giving a series of talks in school on sustainable development and UNCED;
specifying multi-disciplinary research as an area which requires extensive support;
building more multi-disciplinary teams to tackle environmental concepts and issues;
accessing state-of-the art curriculum on sustainable development and circulating it;
building twinning relationships with institutions in twinned cities;
encouraging urban issues as areas for teaching and research while at the same time not neglecting the rural;
including alumni in efforts to address sustainable development;
involving chambers of commerce in the university's efforts to address sustainable development;
working with faculty and students to develop sustainable development strategies, policies, and action plans;
tasking key faculty members to feed sustainable development through the university system;
involving government, business, and NGOs in the university's efforts to address sustainable development;
involving students in the university's linkage projects both at home and in the host country;
listing sustainable development expertise on campus such as was done at the University of Manitoba;
developing a strategic plan for sustainable development within the university;
preparing a manual on "Sustainable Development in Universities"; other publications could include "How Universities can work with NGOs in Contributing to Sustainable Development;
preparing an advisory paper to encourage and guide graduate students on how they might link their thesis subjects to the goals of UNCED;
B. Within the Region, university activities could include:
encouraging universities which were not at the conference to participate in the process and to endorse the Halifax Declaration;
having the presidents and the sustainable development unit representatives of universities in the region meet with the provincial Minister of the Environment to discuss mutual goals;
establishing a network among universities in order to share information about the "Greening" of the universities: this could be linked to the national university network.
C. On a National Level, university activities could include:
the establishment of a sustainable development advisory group within bodies representative of a national community of universities to review progress at the national level;
working with the national delegation for UNCED preparatory to the conference;
reviewing key public policy documents on sustainable development;
supporting national citizen participation programs;
approaching national media services to identify practical ways the universities can contribute to national programs on sustainable development;
seeking to have universities play a more central role in strategic planning and decision making with respect to capacity building;
encouraging governments to identify strategic plans for capacity building;
circulating to students through the national university association the Youth Declaration on Environment and Development;
establishing a national university network to be linked to the national university association;
D. At the International Level, university activities could include:
providing support for the president of the IAU, in cooperation with UNU, to represent the international university community at UNCED;
establishing an international council for sustainable development linked to the IAU; IAU to draft a proposed mandate in cooperation with UNU and Halifax Conference organizers;
pushing to have environmental education placed higher on the UNESCO agenda;
promoting a "Brundtland" prize or some distinguished international prize in sustainable development;
building into all the international linkage programs of those universities present and signatories to the "Halifax Declaration", a sustainable development component and drawing upon the key principles found in the EMDI model insofar as they are appropriate;
circulating the "Halifax Declaration" and "Plan of Action" as widely as possible, in different languages, to university organizations at the national, regional and international levels, appropriate NGOs including youth organizations, relevant UN. bodies, and the mass media;
increasing interaction between the university community and those UN organizations concerned with sustainable development such as UNU, UNESCO, and UNEP;
encouraging international agencies to use their requirements for information and policy development to build up local capacity in the universities;
encouraging government to assign a percentage of external aid funding for basic education and training in sustainable development;
for the countries represented at the UASD Conference, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Indonesia and Canada, forming a partnership for cooperation for sustainable development;
accepting the offer of the Brazilian rectors to attend the pre-UNCED Academic Scientific Parallel Conference and have the Brazilian rectors also put forward the view of the universities, in addition to the IAU presentation.
“There is virtually no university that I know of where a person can enroll in a Master’s degree in environmental engineering, policy or science and acquire a comprehensive, holistic view of environmental management. Generally these programmes are not only limited in perspective, but they are entirely oriented with controlling and remediating environmental problems as opposed to anticipating and preventing them. Furthermore, many members of faculty consider the programmes to be non-rigorous or soft science because they are interdisciplinary—in some cases, they’re considered simply faddish. An additional feature of most programmes is that they’re almost always supported by soft money. Why? Because they’re interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary and therefore are not considered to be part of the central mission of the universities.” Anthony Cortese, Dean of Environmental Programs, Tufts University
“Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of countries to address environment and development issues. While basic education provides the underpinning for any environmental and development education, the latter needs to be recognized as an essential part of learning, including basic learning. It is indispensable for achieving ethical awareness and promoting behavior consistent with the sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable development. To be effective, it should deal with the dynamics of the physical /biological environment and human development, be integrated in all disciplines and employ all formal and non-formal methods and adequate communication.” Report of the Secretary General of UNCED; A/Conf.151/PC/100/Add.6, p.2, 4/16 Jan. 1992
“Universities have to become leaders in putting their own houses in order. How many university presidents in Canada today have already committed themselves to an environmental audit of their university operations? How many university administrators apply the principles of green architecture to building construction? How many universities have effective senior managers with the term ‘environment’ in their title? How many universities have a five-year green plan, a strategic plan for five years or longer, in which a whole series of measures of sustainable development can be looked at in an integrated and careful fashion, and where students and NGOs are involved in the development of that plan?” Robert Page, Dean, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary
Creating a Common Future. The Halifax Declaration and Action Plan