DMU celebrates a year working with the United Nations


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One year ago this week, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) was announced as a hub for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at transforming lives around the world.

DMU was the first university in the UK to become an SDG hub, representing work on Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Street Mediators

Street Mediators in Beaumont Leys - picture Alex Hannam

Every organisation was chosen for its innovative scholarship related to the SDGs and asked to develop and share its ideas with the United Nations’ Academic Impact network – made up of more than 1,400 universities and colleges in more than 130 countries.

DMU has been working on three major projects – tackling modem slavery, creating a network of universities helping refugees, and youth engagement in politics. And 2020 will see this work expand with new campaigns, research and projects.

Mark Charlton, Associate Director of Public Engagement, said: “This year has seen a tremendous amount of work by DMU academics, staff and students, and we are already starting to see how it is having an impact.

“Key to our success so far has been the partnerships that we’ve formed and the enthusiasm of students and staff to get involved and give us their ideas.”

Here is what has been achieved in the first year: 

Modern slavery: Misery for Millions

It is estimated that 40.3 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, and at least 13,000 of those victims are in Britain.

Professor Dave Walsh and researcher Laura Pajon and they have joined partner organisations, such as the police, local authorities and charities, in forming the Leicester and Leicestershire Modern Slavery Action Group to help combat the problem.

Working with Leicestershire Police and partners, DMU has teamed up with the national British charity Unseen to promote its hotline that aims to get victims of modern slavery to come forward to stop their exploitation.

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Spreading democracy to all young people

Researchers have identified that 18 to 30-year olds from deprived backgrounds or low socio-economic status in Britain are less likely to vote and more likely to be politically apathetic. The Lords Select Committee has said there is a need for targeted action in communities that are marginalised and left behind.

In parliamentary elections, the turn-out is among the lowest in the country in Leicester West, where just 57.9 per cent (68.7 per cent was the national average) voted in the 2017 General Election making it 635 out of the 650 constituencies. Initial work by DMU researchers among the 18-30 age group in Leicester West, showed that only 1 per cent of that group voted in the 2019 local elections in the New Parks ward. 

DMU is working with community members on the estate to listen to those people, give them a voice and also try to engage them in the political process. The long-term hope is to increase the number voting in elections.
UN hub

Join Together to highlight forced migration

The #JoinTogether network was formed at a conference with nine founding members to work with institutions of higher education to highlight the issue of forced migration. The network now has 110 members in more than 50 countries across six continents. The focal point of the network is the #JoinTogether website which acts as the forum to highlight the issues, research and good practice with news from network members and case studies.

This initiative is reinforced by DMU’s refugee outreach programme that has included student volunteer work in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussel, Berlin and New York, as the university bids to create not only good citizens, but world citizens.

Knife Crime: A Major Issue

De Montfort University is working with partners across the city of Leicester on two major projects to combat the problem of knife crime – Street Mediators, which sees volunteers go out onto the streets to talk to young people and Youth Power, a partnership between DMU, Leicester City Council and charity Leicester City in the Community. Four youth centres have been saved from closure.

The project launched by Leicester City Premier League footballer Hamza Choudhury will work with youngsters to prevent them carrying – and using – knives and is supported by volunteers on DMU’s Youth and Communities programme.

Posted on Thursday 2nd January 2020

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