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October 3, 2021

The Talloires Network of leaders from 417 universities in 79 countries across the globe gathered virtually at Tufts and Harvard Universities in North America and locally on 20 campuses in 15 countries around the world to strengthen our shared commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility.

It was appropriate at this critical time to return to our founding institution, Tufts University, since their leaders first convened the Network in 2005. In partnership with Harvard University, this year’s virtual gathering honored the successful 16-year history of enhanced collaboration globally by bringing together university leaders to critically reflect on our efforts to create a more just, equitable and sustainable society.

Since the historic first Talloires Declaration On the Civic Roles and Social Responsibilities of Higher Education 16 years ago, we have utilized our conferences in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America to articulate shared values and to strategically adapt to the changing needs of our growing global coalition.

The past year has presented both unprecedented challenges and opportunities for our institutions as we were confronted with the global pandemic, inequities in health care and educational access, economic inequality, gender oppression, structural racism, and climate change.

We seek to promote human rights and further the free exchange of knowledge, ideas, and practices. We recommit to realizing the potential of university civic engagement as a practical strategy for improving research and teaching and addressing societal challenges. We also remain steadfast in our commitment to encourage reciprocity, the co-generation of knowledge and learning between universities and communities, embracing difference as an essential ingredient of productive collaboration. We will continue to promote multiple ways of knowing and multiple ways of understanding as a strategy for creating more equitable and prosperous communities around the world.

This year, the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities examines the responsibility of higher education institutions in an equitable COVID-19 recovery while also continuing to target the societal problems that the pandemic has amplified. Now, more than ever before, we feel the urgency to champion university-community collaborations that are adaptable and quick to respond to emerging social issues.

We have long held that universities have a responsibility to develop the next generation of active citizens with the capacity to address the complex challenges around the world. Throughout the pandemic, university students have practiced global citizenship by co-designing collaborations with local communities to mitigate the harmful impacts of COVID-19 while exchanging strategies across geo-political boundaries through regular virtual convenings. The pandemic has tested the modes of delivery of education, showing the potential to expand access to education in a dramatic way. However, it has also exposed how, in an increasingly digital world, technology and digital literacy is becoming much more of a necessity and a right, than a privilege. We re-affirm our common aspiration to create socially inclusive institutions and to promote quality education for all.

The onset of COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the socioeconomic inequality in our communities. It is estimated that the pandemic pushed an additional 119 million to 124 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. It is important to acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women across the world and poverty levels among women are now rising rapidly, particularly in the least developed countries.

We strive to amplify the voices and lived experiences of all marginalized groups including women, refugees, Indigenous Peoples, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. We believe this is only possible in an environment committed to fostering respect, dignity, and justice. Furthermore, we continue our efforts to correct a historical imbalance by increasing the visibility of innovative civic engagement activities ongoing in the Global South.

As a global coalition of engaged universities, we understand the centrality of science to effective policymaking. We acknowledge that there is a fundamental injustice in the impacts of climate change as they fall the hardest on those who have done the least to bring us to this point. We declare climate justice an urgent priority and we begin a new chapter of civic engagement with focus on activities to mitigate harmful carbon emissions and to adapt to climate impacts caused by the pollution of the last decades.

For sixteen years, the Talloires Network has lifted up higher education institutions to serve the communities that they are a part of by upholding values of social responsibility and civic engagement. In doing so, our institutions influence their own members to contribute positively to their broader local, national, and global communities, which is central to the success of inclusive, thriving and sustainable societies.

In solidarity, we aim to advance the application of high standards and the evolution of ethical ideas and strategies in the field of university civic engagement. We commit to leveraging the collective imagination and generative utility of universities to improve the lives of all people and better communities around the world.

We invite members of the Talloires Network and welcome others to participate in the global movement of civically engaged universities by signing this 2021 Declaration.