Special Event

The First International Conference on Civil Society

The Trilateral Civil Society Education Consortium (TCSEC), a consortium of seven universities from Canada, Mexico and the United States, held its first International Conference on Civil Society in Tampico, Mexico April 14-15, 2005. The members of the TCSEC are The University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University at Bloomington, Carleton University in Ottowa, The University of Victoria in British Columbia, Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas in Tampico, Mexico, and El Colegio Mexiquense, A.C. in Toluca, Mexico. The conference was sponsored by the US Department of EducationÕs FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) program and hosted by the Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas in Tampico.

Three trilateral panel presentations and discussions were held during the two-day event, with each panel presenting the comparative Canadian, Mexican and American experience on a significant area of civil society studies. The three areas were Community Development, Volunteerism, and Governance and Accountability in civil society organizations. Professors from the TCSEC universities are among the experts in these fields in their respective countries and therefore, the research presented was insightful and thought-provoking. The presentations also confirmed the success of the Consortium in encouraging and growing the field of civil society studies, particularly in a comparative nature, since its inception in 2002. Simultaneously, while acknowledging that much progress has been made thus far, the conference also reaffirmed the commitment of the TCSEC to endeavoring further to promote healthy civil society organizations in North America.

One of the partner universities in the Consortium, Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas (UAT), presented its original research project and new civil society organization, Engineers Without Borders Mexico (Ingenieros Sin Fronteras Mexico, A.C.). This is an international nonprofit organization without a current chapter in Mexico and through the Consortium and student exchanges resulting from the project, UAT is working to establish Engineers Without Borders in Mexico. This is an exciting project and outcome of the Trilateral Consortium with much potential to significantly impact civil society in Mexico as well as influence the future role of Mexican higher education institutions in civil society.

In addition to research presentations and discussion on the comparative nature of civil society in Canada, Mexico and the United States, the conference included conversations about the future of the sector in each of the three countries and the ways that the Trilateral Civil Society Education Consortium can work to encourage civil society in North America. Plans are underway for a second international conference next year as well as continual student exchange, joint research, and the Summer 2005 Civil Society Institute that will be held at The University of Texas at Austin. The conference participants were also able to experience and tour the city and port of Tampico as well as learn about the historical significance of this large city located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.