De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) led a major conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York to champion sustainability and promote the power of international collaboration.
A key part of the #DMUglobal mass trip to the city, students from DMU and other universities from around the world, including Russia, China, Canada and the USA, filled one of the building's iconic debating chambers.
DMU students, staff and partner universities #JoinTogether
Distinguished speakers including Alison Smale, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Maymuchka Lauritson, Human Rights lawyer from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, MEP Rory Palmer and Mayor of Leicester Sir Peter Soulsby, took turns to join the debate.
While the students were invited to ask questions and consider how they can play their part in achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals - 17 global targets addressing issues like poverty, equality, hunger and life under water. In particular, it they discussed SGD 16, which calls for the building of strong institutions to promote peace, justice and inclusive societies.
DMU has been chosen by the United Nations Academic Impact group as a 'Global Hub' for SDG16 in recognition of its work through #DMUlocal and Square Mile India, which support communities to make a difference in society.
The overriding message from the conference - which was a further part of DMU's #JoinTogether campaign - was that students must join together, be engaged, speak out and take action.
Students left feeling inspired, with many pinching themselves at the thought that they had spoken at the UN.
The packed chamber at the United Nations New York
Drama and Media student Emma Bell, who told the assembly that being a good communicator was as important as being a good listener, said: “I was completely shaking when the red light came on and I had to speak. Nothing big happens to me, ever, and I have never had an opportunity like this before.
“I stood up in the UN and was able to voice my opinion. I feel totally inspired.”
Law, Human Rights and Social Justice student Zeinab Al-Ahmar and Human Resource Management student Natasha Kukadia made a presentation to the conference about their work to tackle slavery.
Zeinab said: “It was a dream come true to speak at the UN. I have always been passionate about human rights and am well invested in doing what I can to make a difference. I already work with organisations to tackle human trafficking and slavery.
“Anybody can be the change. It does not have to be a concentrated effort all of the time. But you need the mentality to say ‘I can go out there and do something different’.”
Natasha added: “It was amazing to be able to speak at the UN. I never thought I would get the chance to come to New York never mind be part of a debate here.
“I feel so inspired by all the different speakers. DMU has given me so many opportunities and I am really grateful. I have learned so much and that really motivates me.”
Dominic Gilmour, who studies Creative Writing and English Language, was part of the audience in the chamber. He said: “I think if you work together you can all be the change.
“All of us need to make an effort.
“I may not necessarily be the one to take the lead in a campaign but I know people around me who would and I would join them. It is amazing to be here. It has been an opportunity I never thought would come my way.”
Caitlyn Councilman is from Guilford College in North Carolina which has joined DMU’s #JoinTogether campaign along with dozens of others.
She said: “I can be the change. By making a small difference locally, forming relationships with people, finding common ground we can all play a part. Lots of people solving small problems will make a big change.”
In the immediate wake of the Brexit referendum vote in June 2016, DMU launched a #LoveInternational initiative, which sprang from what Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard had previously called the anxieties, hopes and defiance of his students and staff.
Several 24-hour vigils have been held on campus devoted to discussion and debate about the way forward from Brexit and the university has stepped up its pioneering #DMUglobal project, which sends students overseas for subsidised educational trips, relevant to their degrees, which promote global citizenship. Almost 11,000 students have been on trips in the last four years.
1,000 final year DMU students are currently in New York on the #DMUglobal trip and around 500 of them attended the UN conference.
Posted on Monday 7th January 2019