DMU continues involvement in UN refugee support campaign with New York summit

More than 250 students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) attended an event at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York as part of the university’s involvement in a global initiative to offer worldwide support to refugees.

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DMU has been asked by the UN to take the lead in engaging the higher education sector worldwide to be part of the campaign, called #JoinTogether. This was the second major conference following the campaign’s launch in January, when hundreds of DMU students attended a first summit at the UN headquarters.

This conference, led by DMU, focused on championing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with a specific emphasis on SDG 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Speakers included DMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard representatives from partner universities and United Nations representatives including Maher Nasser, Daniël Prins and Antje Kristin Watermann.

The conference reviewed the progress made by universities over the last six months and debated the current challenges for safety and dignity faced by refugees in local communities. New partner universities from around the world, which now total 38, will also be welcomed.

Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information, began the summit by challenging the audience to do what they can to help people and make a change.

He said: “Today is all about sharing your experiences. You know what you can do and what your responsibility is. Let’s not forget the most vulnerable amongst us. Let’s not leave anyone behind."

“The change starts with you, the society around you and your university, but also remind government representatives that they have a responsibility.”

Two DMU students sat on the day’s first panel. First-year Law student Connall Pugh and second-year International Relations student Lucia Metger explained some of the work done this week by DMU Square Mile volunteers to help refugees in New York.

They were joined by Edafe Okporo, a former refugee from Nigeria and Director of the RJD Refugee Shelter in New York, who spoke about the importance of helping refugees and migrants.

Connall Pugh said: “Join Together is important because, especially in this day and age, the world is a very volatile place in some areas. Campaigns like this show that there’s hope out there for change."

The next session looked at the impact of the #JoinTogether campaign and outlined the work of partner universities over the last six months.

Professor Shellard gave an overview the campaign before Antje Kristin Watermann gave a United Nations viewpoint and urged universities to work together to tackle this global crisis.

The University of Pennsylvania (in USA), Aristotle University (in Greece) and The University of Jaen (in Spain) presented case studies showcasing the amazing work helping refugees and migrants on their campuses. The audience cast their votes for their favourite example and the ‘PURE project’ by the University of Pennsylvania was announced as the project that will be spread across the network of partner universities.>

The summit then moved on to discuss the way that diplomacy can be used to rise to new global challenges. There was a thought-provoking contribution from Daniël Prins, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch within the UN’s Office for Disarmament Affairs, who said we should deal with strangers in a hospitable way rather than a hostile way.

Students also had the honour of hearing from Jonathan Allen, Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, who explained the role of diplomats and gave his perspective of how diplomacy can make a real impact in the world.

The final session of the summit covered the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Staff members from DMU highlighted the university’s work through Square Mile India and commitment to eradicate single use plastics as examples of how universities can implement the SDGs to make the world a better place.

The event finished with three partner universities presenting projects that meet Sustainable Development Goal number 16, which is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

The University of Massachusetts (USA), Amsterdam University College (The Netherlands) and Guilford College (USA) all gave excellent examples of work done by their institution, with Amsterdam University College’s ‘Right2Education’ programme being chosen as the best project by an audience vote.

Posted on Thursday 7th June 2018

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