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Forest Whitaker advocating for youth empowerment and sustainability at key events in Singapore

On June 5 and 6, in Singapore, Forest Whitaker called upon civil society, the private sector and youth to transform the SDGs into a truly global movement. Speaking in his capacities as CEO/Founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation as well as member of the Advocacy Group for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he addressed and exchanged with a wide array of stakeholders gathered at the 5th Ecosperity Conference and UNLEASH, a nonprofit innovation lab mobilizing young talents to address the challenges of our world.

Held in relation with the United Nations World Environment Day, the 2018 edition of the Ecosperity conference brought together 600 delegates from 23 countries, among them corporate leaders, innovators, policy-makers and experts from various fields. They worked to push the frontiers of sustainable development by exploring its latest trends and insights notably in technology, education, food and healthcare. Forest Whitaker took part in the discussions of the conference drawing on his extended experience with young people in Africa and the Americas. “We know that humanity will face unprecedented challenges in the decades ahead – but these years could also be those of unprecedented innovation if we manage to impulse movements that promote lasting peace and shared prosperity. Young people should be in the driving seat with businesses at their sides. My call to support youth is addressed to business leaders in particular because I believe that the sustainability of our future will in the end depend on our capacity to embrace change and entrepreneurship.”

At the UNLEASH event, Forest met with young people invited to brainstorm together through a “global innovation lab” process that mobilized the energy of 1,000 talented millennial thought leaders from more than 100 countries, who collaborated on ideas and solutions to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Awards went to the teams with the ideas that best expressed the principles behind the 2030 Agenda, such as gender equality, inclusion, innovation, scalability or multistakeholder partnerships. In his remarks, Forest Whitaker insisted on the feedbacks between the global dimension of SDGs and the need to implement them locally. “In the end, I think we should realize that the small things we do in our own lives or communities are part of a much bigger effort. If you look at the Sustainable Development Goals, there are 17 very different objectives that the international community has set out for itself, but they’re all ultimately there to help us build a world of peace where everyone is included. So anytime you in your own life do something to make someone’s life better or make someone feel included, you are part of that mission.” This encounter between Forest Whitaker and young people reached a high point when the they gave him a standing ovation to the chant of “Wakanda Forever” referring to his eminent role in the recent Disney blockbuster that is deemed to transform the image of Africa worldwide.

Forest Whitaker also took opportunity of his presence in Singapore to disseminate his messages in international broadcast services, notably CNBC, Eco-Business, as well as Singapore-based media, including The Straits Times, Singapore's English-language daily highest selling paper, and the digital platform of Temasek, the main sponsor of the Ecosperity event. In view of his participation to the Ecosperity and UNLEASH events, Mr. Whitaker had published an op-ed article on CNN.com, where he stated that: “Nearly 60 years ago” he wrote, “John F. Kennedy came up with the idea of the Peace Corps -- after an improvised speech at a university prompted thousands of young people to write him about their desire to commit to peace and development in vulnerable countries. We need that kind of responsiveness from the adults -- but we need more than a volunteer program that will mobilize young people around projects designed and managed by adults. We need policies and programs that truly embrace change and social innovation. We need institutions that assume young people are going to come with ideas that don't necessarily fit what adults believe to be an established truth. Of course, young people need guidance and mentorship.”

Link to the Op-Ed: http://www.cnn.com/2018/05/31/opinions/support-youth-activism-opinion-whitaker/index.html

Ecosperity website: https://www.ecosperity.sg

UNLEASH website: https://unleash.org/innovation-lab-2018/