A director from the United Nations HQ in New York has told a conference the vital role De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has to play in creating a future ‘where everyone can thrive with dignity and justice on a healthy planet'.
Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach at the UN, gave the opening speech at the start of DMU’s inaugural annual conference for Peace, Equality and Social Justice and spoke about the importance of universities helping achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The SDGs address global challenges such as hunger, health, education, climate change and social justice, aiming to ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
In 2018, Mr Nasser announced that DMU had been chosen by the United Nations as a designated ‘hub’ for SDG 16 – the first university to be given such a responsibility.
SDG 16 promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Mr Nasser said: “There is no better time than today for this conference.
“When we look at world events and headlines we see all the promises and achievements we had hoped for were delayed by COVID but most recently, since late February, by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
“We are looking not only at the devastating price paid by Ukraine but globally there are unprecedented rises in food and energy prices impacting any progress made in other countries and hampering world efforts to ‘build back better’ after the pandemic.
“We had hoped building back better would bring more investment of funds to tackle climate change and opportunities to invest in moving away from fossil fuels.
“But when justice is not present grievances arise and conflicts take place.
“When there is conflict any progress in sustainable development is reversed. Dealing with wars and displacement means talk about sustainable development falls away.
“Without a suitable society we cannot talk about building economies and developing jobs and growth to deal with hunger and inequality.
“Universities are places of learning where a lot of research takes place and that can inform policy nationally and internationally.
“Universities have a social responsibility to solve problems in society.
“DMU became the first SDG16 hub. Now we have 15 other universities and conferences such as this are part of what hubs do - invest in the sharing of intellectual research, work to inform good policy at a national level and then take it to the international stage and the UN.
“If it was left to governments alone, these goals would not be achievable. Not because they would be incapable of doing it but because of the size of the challenge. We need universities and other institutions to contribute.
“Universities are the places where new innovations come from, that show how we can invest in renewables or propose ways to attain justice in society and avoid conflict, creating a future where everyone can thrive with dignity and justice on a healthy planet. That element is often forgotten about.
“This is the worst time to be a non-human. We are looking at the largest extinction of species ever between now and 2100. Climate change is affecting future generations.
“So now it is time that we talk about rebuilding society and it is also time for making peace with our planet”
Professor Kenneth Morrison, research Theme Director for Peace, Equality and Social Justice at DMU, and organiser of the two-day conference which continues today, said: “This is the first of what we hope are going to be annual Peace, Equality and Social Justice conferences at DMU
“We have a number of extremely interesting panel presentations coming from different areas of the university and the key objective is for us all to think about synergies and where they exist across the institution.
“We need to think about working across faculties and working with external partners. We will also be showcasing some of the brilliant research taking place here at DMU.
“I am delighted that Maheer Nasar is here to open the conference. He is a good friend of ours and works closely with DMU on all matters about SDGs.”.
Posted on Friday 20th May 2022