The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Awards, part of the UN’s SDG Action Campaign, honour initiatives and individuals that mobilise, inspire and connect people to drive positive change. In July 2023, following over 5 000 applications from 190 countries, the finalists and winners for this year were celebrated at a ceremony in Rome.
Known as ‘the Oscars of the SDGs’, this year’s competition saw winners in four categories working with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals – an urgent call for action by all countries to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth, tackle climate change, and preserve our oceans and forests.
The winner of the ‘Mobilise’ category was World Cleanup Day. As one of the largest civic peacebuilding actions in the world, World Cleanup Day tackles solid waste head-on, coordinating global one-day cleanups that bring together millions of individuals around the world. What began in Estonia as a cleanup with 50 000 people in 2008 has evolved into a global movement, mobilising over 70 million people to remove hundreds of thousands of tons of waste from natural environments.
Green Obsession by Stefano Boeri Architects, the winner in the ‘Inspire’ category, was acknowledged for its work changing city paradigms and emphasising urban forests as a priority for governments around the world, ensuring a greener future for all. By increasing the connectivity between forests, gardens and parks, and through the creation of ecological corridors, Green Obsession introduces a transformative urban forestry strategy that represents a shifting perspective of the future of the global cityscape.
In the third category, ‘Connect’, the International Rescue Committee’s Signpost Project took the top prize. The Signpost Project empowers communities by giving them control over the information they need to solve problems and overcome challenges. Signpost describes itself as the world’s first scalable approach to running digital, community-driven and responsive information platforms in countries where people are impacted by conflict, disasters, poverty and violence, by combining cutting-edge technology with the deep contextual knowledge that only local communities have.
In the ‘Changemaker’ category, Nery Santaella won for Voices of Venezuela. Through innovative technology such as artificial intelligence and chatbots, the migrants-helping-migrants model informs and supports migrants while dispelling misinformation, raising awareness and fostering community engagement.
British actor Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba earned an honourable mention for their work with the International Fund for Agricultural Development in bringing agricultural issues to mainstream media, helping empower smallholder farmers who are the backbone of our global food system, and raising over US$1,5 billion for agricultural investment.
Photographs: Stefano Boeri Architects, SDG Action Awards.