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Forest Whitaker urges government and business leaders to create conditions for youth movements as strategic move to address global challenges

Our CEO Forest Whitaker took an active part in the 2018 World Government Summit held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from February 11 to 13, on the theme “Shaping Future Governments”.

Each year since 2013, the Summit aims to set the agenda for the next generation of governments with a focus on how they can harness innovation and technology to solve universal challenges facing humanity.

Mr. Whitaker contributed to the debates and exchanges of this Summit in his capacities as CEO/Founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and UN Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With WPDI working to empower young women and men from conflict- and violence-affected neighborhood in countries such as South Sudan, Uganda, Mexico and the United States, Mr. Whitaker therefore had much to advocate for and propose throughout this sixth edition of the Summit.

He first appeared at a session, held on the 11th, with Her Excellency Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development of UAE, to exchange on the theme “Women and Youth: The Catalyst to Solve Global Challenges”. The two speakers concurred that, while young people and women can figure among the most vulnerable groups, they also hold the key to the future of the entire community. Their idea was that, by giving them the right skills and resources, actionable solutions can be reached meaning that the challenges of climate change can be faced head on.

Drawing on his humanitarian work, Mr. Whitaker said that “My work is based on the assumption that youth will care if they feel they can do something. Youth can be strategic partners to push for solutions on the challenges the world is facing.” Evoking initiatives by WPDI youth from Mexico or South Sudan, he called for governments and the private sector to establish youth banks, funds or earmarked funds, to finance grassroots projects designed and implemented by youth to benefit their communities.

On the evening of the 11th, Mr. Whitaker spoke at a session hosted by His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment. The purpose of the event was to discuss with the other invitees, most of them business and government leaders on the challenges presented by climate change and the need for multi-disciplinary approaches. Quoting Secretary-General Guterres’ “Climate change is a direct threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats -- from poverty to displacement to conflict.” Mr. Whitaker raised the issue of the disturbing links between conflict and environmental degradations and concluded his intervention saying: “These links between conflict and the environment affect development and harm the future of our planet. The harm that happens through conflict to the environment affects us all, our youth, our children and their children to come.”

On the 12th, Mr. Whitaker had the opportunity to address a group of young people at a Youth Dialogue session on the SDGs co-organized by the UAE Government and Global Citizen, a New York-based organization that brands itself as a social action platform for a global generation that wants to solve the world’s biggest challenges. The main objective of the exchanges was to identify concrete ways in which the energy of youth could be tapped to help achieve the SDGs and solve global challenges. Mr. Whitaker mentioned the work of the young women and men he supports through his foundation, concluding that it was crucial to initiate everywhere movements where young people would have a role to play in addressing the challenges of both their community and humanity. He advocated for inter-generational responsibility and urged the youth, "Realize the power that you have. The SDGs are about healing the planet. They allow us to see the needs of the planet and address them and to recognize our interconnectivity."