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 civilized world.

As the international community marshals its endeavors 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 l991, 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 worldwide 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 recognized, and the energies and skills of people everywhere be employed in a positive, cooperative 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 that 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 utilize 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 emphasize the ethical obligation of the present generation to overcome those current malpractices of resource utilization and those widespread circumstances of intolerable human disparity which lie at the root of environmental unsustainability.
  4. To enhance the capacity of the university to teach and practise 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 and to 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.
  7. Done at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, the 11th day of December, 1991.