Join us on 24 July at 18:30 CET and tune in for the LIVE broadcast of the 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Ceremony. Finalists will be recognized, and winners will be announced, at our flagship Awards event in Rome, Italy, as we celebrate and honour SDG changemakers from around the world.
The Awards Ceremony will also cap off the first day of the 2023 UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment, hosted by the Government of Italy at the premises of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the collaboration of the UN’s Rome-based agencies, the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub, and the wider UN system.
From Estonia to Brazil, to Colombia and Tanzania and reaching across the African continent, the Awards finalists show the world what it means to unite to act and make change happen for a more sustainable future for all.
The 2022 UN SDG Action Awards Ceremony is keeping sustainability front and center to show the events industry that events can be produced in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
SDG solutions incorporated into our event include sustainable set-ups, working with local suppliers, eliminating single-use plastics, promoting gender equality both on and offstage, ensuring accessibility though sign language interpretation, ensuring inclusive representation across geographies and sectors, and more.
Tolu Olubunmi is a Nigerian-born, American-raised chemical engineer turned political strategist, social entrepreneur and public speaker. She is the founder and CEO of the social impact venture, Lions Write. In 2018, Tolu was tapped by the Director-General of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) for a special appointment as Advisor to the UN Department of Global Communications and Manager of the Climate Action Campaign ActNow. Tolu has established and led numerous NGOs and campaigns focused on education, migration, economic inclusion, sustainability, and climate change. She has worked closely with leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society to shift culture, influence public policy and build strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships – she served on the World Economic Forum’s Migration Council, co-founded Immigrant Heritage Month, and has helped draft and implement U.S. immigration policies.
Tolu sits on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League, Board of Directors of USA for IOM. In 2015, the World Economic Forum named her one of 15 Women Changing the World and an Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur. Her inspiring personal story and work have been profiled by several media outlets, including BBC, MSNBC, TIME, CBS, US News and World Report. Tolu is an inaugural Leadership Institute Fellow at the Center for American Progress and holds a chemistry-engineering degree from Washington and Lee University.
Ms. Ulrika Modéer officially began her role on 20 August 2018 as UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy. In this role she leads the organization in nurturing and growing key relationships with Member States, and new and emerging partners, as well as lead UNDP’s communications and advocacy, as it works to realize the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Modéer previously served as Sweden’s State Secretary for International Development Cooperation and Climate and has been instrumental in reshaping the country’s international development cooperation to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. She combines a strong policy background with parliamentary and civil society experience and has had several assignments in Latin America (Bolivia, Guatemala) and Africa (Mozambique/South Africa). Ms. Modéer holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Melanie Kubin-Hardewig is Vice President, Group Corporate Responsibility at Deutsche Telekom. She is responsible for the group-wide design and execution of Deutsche Telekom’s Corporate Responsibility Strategy. This covers a wide range of issues from environmental to social aspects, including sustainable supply chains and finance as well as the development of Deutsche Telekom’s strategic targets. She also leads Deutsche Telekom’s top sustainability initiatives. Melanie has previously held various management roles at different entities of Deutsche Telekom. She is a trained lawyer and holds a Master of Business Administration.
Niels Annen was nominated Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in December 2021. He is a vocal advocate of maintaining and cultivating the rules-based global order and strongly believes in seeking multilateral solutions to current conflicts and crises. Based on a firm commitment to universal human rights, fostering humanitarian aid, peace mediation and the preservation of the global arms control architecture, Niels Annen promotes a strong role for the Federal Republic of Germany in international diplomacy for a sustainable future of our planet. Prior to his current position, he was Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office between 2018 to 2021 and served for several years as spokesperson on foreign affairs of the Social Democratic Party Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag. Niels Annen was a member of the Social Democratic Party’s executive committee from 2003 to 2019.
Mitzi Jonelle Tan is a climate justice activist based in Metro Manila, Philippines. She is the convenor and international spokesperson of the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) – the Fridays For Future (FFF) of the Philippines. She is also engaged with FFF International and FFF MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas), making sure that voices from the Global South are heard, amplified, and given space. She is committed to changing the system and building a world that prioritizes people and planet, not profit, through collective action.
Hamzat Lawal is an activist with more than 15 years of experience in leading grassroots campaigns and working in the non-profit sector in over 40 African countries. Lawal is the Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE), a civil society organization recognized with the ONE Africa Award and the Council of Europe Democracy Innovation Award. He is also the Founder of Follow The Money, a Pan-African grassroots data-driven movement, working with technology and innovation-driven campaigners to promote accountability and amplify the voices of marginalized communities across Africa. Follow The Money was a 2019 UN SDG Action Award winner in the Mobilize category. As a Malala Fund Education Champion, he is currently leading an education campaign to accelerate girls’ education and end child marriage in the northeast of Nigeria. Lawal was recently appointed as an Advisory Board Member of the Global Citizen Fellowship Program, powered by Beyonce’s BeyGOOD foundation. In 2018 and 2019, he was listed as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in digital government by Apolitical.
Natasha Mwansa is the founder and Executive Director of Natasha Mwansa Foundation, which aims to see a world in which young people’s health, safety and development are a priority and invested in while their potential is unleashed, and they are given equal opportunity to share power with stakeholders and equipped enough to be the change they want to see. Natasha is the youngest recipient of the WHO Global Health Leaders award worldwide in recognition of her work towards adolescent health – particularly sexual and reproductive health and her speech on what young people want during the 72nd World Health Assembly opening. In addition, she was voted as Zambia’s most influential young person in 2020 and awarded a national Emerging Leaders award by PUSH Network. She currently works with WHO on their adolescent health flagship program and sits on the WEF Global Future’s and NALA feminist Councils. She is also a Social Accountability Monitor and a third-year student at University of Zambia studying Media and Communication Studies with a minor in Political Science.
Sandra Uwera is the Global CEO of Fairtrade International. Previously, she served as CEO of COMESA Business Council, the leading Business Member Organization in Africa and a private sector institution of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which represents 34 business sectors across 21 countries. As part of Ms. Uwera’s work with CBC and COMESA, she has led projects and programs on sustainable solutions for small and medium enterprises, advocacy, technical capacity-building, industry competitiveness and market access, digital financial inclusion, and programs focused on women and youth empowerment. Ms. Uwera is also an Eisenhower fellow and sits on various Boards in Africa and internationally. She holds a Master of Science in Strategic Planning, a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications, and has undertaken advanced professional training in international trade policy and law, digital inclusion, and leadership for business sustainability.
H.E. Mr. Khalifa Jassim Al-Kuwari is the Director General of the Qatar Fund for Development, managing the State of Qatar’s foreign aid and international development activities. Previously, he worked at the Qatar Investment Authority and at the Qatar Central Bank, and Ashghal & Urban Planning Authority, having in-depth experience in accounting, auditing, financial analysis and investment management. H.E. Mr. Al-Kuwari has been appointed to the boards of leading institutions, including Harrods, Volkswagen Group, Fairmont Raffles Group, Songbird Real Estate, Qatar Exchange, Katara Hospitality and Mowasalat. H.E. Mr. Al-Kuwari is the president of Qatar Leadership Centre Alumni Association Council, member of Qatar University Alumni Association, chairman of the Qatar Academy for Science and Technology Board of Advisors; he was also elected to the Board of Directors of Qatar Foundation for Social Work. H.E. Mr. Al-Kuwari holds an executive MBA in Business Administration from the London Business School in United Kingdom, an MBA in Accounting from Cleveland State University in the United States and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Qatar University. He graduated from the Leadership Development Program at Harvard Business School in the United States and Qatar Leadership Center.
The Hon. Emma Theofelus is a young, 26-year-old Namibian born in Windhoek, who is currently a Member of Parliament and the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology in the Republic of Namibia. Before her appointment, The Hon. Emma Theofelus was a youth activist for issues of gender, children’s rights, sustainable development and youth unemployment. She served as the Deputy Speaker of the Youth Parliament of the Republic of Namibia and the Junior Mayor of the City of Windhoek amongst other roles. The Hon. Emma Theofelus holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours Degree) from the University of Namibia, a Diploma in Business Management from Amity University and a Diploma in Afrikan Feminism and Gender Studies from the University of South Africa.
Heidi Schroderus-Fox is the Director of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), in which capacity she acts as the Deputy to the High Representative and oversees the management and the programmatic functions of the Office. During 2010-2011 she served as Head of Policy Issues for the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (OPGA). Ms. Schroderus-Fox holds the rank of Ambassador in the Finnish Foreign Service. During her 24 years of work for Finland, she has made significant contributions in the areas of inter-governmental policy dialogue, partnership building and negotiations. Ms. Schroderus-Fox served as Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations in New York during 2006-2010. Prior to being posted to the UN, Ms. Schroderus-Fox held a succession of increasing leadership positions at the Finnish Foreign Ministry and in diplomatic postings to Paris, Washington DC, Tel Aviv, Geneva and Pretoria.
Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.
Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment.
Ms. Mohammed first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to four successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development.
Ms. Mohammed has been conferred several honorary doctorates and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development. The recipient of various global awards, Ms. Mohammed has served on numerous international advisory boards and panels. She is the mother of six children and has two grandchildren.
Jennifer Morgan was appointed State Secretary and Special Envoy for International Climate Action of the German Federal Government in March 2022. Some of her previous roles include Director of the Global Climate Campaign at WWF International, Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Council for Sustainable Development of the Federal Government. Before assuming her current position with the Federal Foreign Office, she was from 2016 to 2022 the Managing Director of the environmental organization Greenpeace International. Ms. Morgan studied political science and international relations at Indiana University, Bloomington and at the American University in Washington, D.C.
Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile is an international award-winning cultural architect, communications specialist, performance artist, development practitioner and human rights advocate. OkayAfrica named her one of the 100 Most Influential Women of African Descent in 2018. Her accolades include being nominated for the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, a TED Fellow, Queen’s Young Leader, Chevening Scholar, Mandela Washington Fellow, and OutRight’s UN Religion Fellow. She holds a Sociology Masters in Human Rights, Culture, and Social Justice, with a focus on Disability Rights and Public Space Design, from Goldsmiths University of London, UK. Her published writing spans theatre, academic texts and policy analyses.
Mame Balla is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, and music producer based in Europe who sings about peace, environmental issues, the experiences of growing up in West Africa and more.
Mame Balla has worked with Bouba Ndour, producer and brother of the famous singer Youssou Ndour, with whom he released two internationally successful albums. Between his solo career and the former music groups Dancehall Masters and Darou Salam, Mame Balla has partnered with international artists of different music genres such as Senegalese pop singer Viviane, dancer Ndeye Geye, hip hop group Gokh-Bi System, and Dutch-Albanese rapper Jon Tarifa. He has also partnered with Polish and German artists for a jazz project, and performed with Congolese afrobeat singers in the Netherlands. Between 1999 and 2004, Mame Balla and his former group Dancehall Masters received awards as Best New Group and Best Group in The Gambia; and also received the prize Prix de l’intégration at a Senegalese hip-hop awards. Mame Balla took a course in music production at the State of Mic Studio in The Gambia. Performing with Pape Samory and Issa Ndiaye.
Nadira Hira is an award-winning journalist known for her distinctive style. Ms. Hira has appeared on NPR, HBO, CNN, and MSNBC. She has captivated audiences at Google, Disney, Comic-Con International, the UN’s Global Festival of Action, and marquee events around the world as both a speaker and host.
Ms. Hira has also relished examining contemporary culture from all angles contributing to notable outlets including Newsweek, Essence, Smithsonian, MTV News, and Fortune, where she profiled singular subjects as Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, the rollicking ancient art trade, and Twentysomethings in the 21st century.
Niels Annen has been the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development since December 2021. Prior to this, Mr. Annen served as Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office (2018-2021), foreign policy spokesperson for the SPD parliamentary group in the German Bundestag (2014-2018), and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and deputy member of the Committee on Economics and Energy (2013-2018).
Mr. Annen is a strong advocate of universal human rights, fostering humanitarian aid, peace mediation, and inclusive sustainable development.
In her role Ms. Ponti led several global initiatives including the #Trunitaround, #FlipTheScript, and Unite To Act campaigns that have mobilized over more than 350 million SDG actions in 190 countries and the UN SDG Action Awards that identifies and celebrates changemakers from across geographies and sectors. As a strong advocate for social and climate justice, Ms. Ponti believes in the power of creativity to lead positive change towards more inclusive, sustainable and peaceful societies.
Previously as one of the main architects of the UN Millennium Campaign, Ms. Ponti served as the Global Deputy Director and Regional Director for Europe for over a decade and was at the vanguard of innovative campaign initiatives, building multi-stakeholder coalitions, mobilizing resources and forging long-term partnerships between civil society organizations, local governments, parliamentarians, media, private sector and the UN. She also served as a Special Advisor on post-2015 during the final negotiations of the 2030 Agenda, along her roles at the UNICEF and UN Secretariat and Catapult – a girls and women’s right crowdfunding platform. Ms. Ponti started her career with the Italian NGO Mani Tese as the Head of Campaigning and External Relations, leading global campaigns and movements on debt, trade, human rights and development assistance.
Ms. Ponti has published several articles for newspapers, magazines, online publications and blogs on the SDGs, aid effectiveness, financial speculation, gender equality, social development, local development, debt-relief, human rights, and trade.
Canon Ambassador Muhammed Muheisen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and founder of the Everyday Refugees Foundation. He has been documenting the world’s refugee crisis for over a decade under the theme ‘a smile in the middle of the rubble’. Muhammed has seen a great deal pass before his lens. Since 2001, he has photographed major events around the world including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Yemeni revolution, the US-led war in Iraq, and the Syrian civil war. He has also documented the funerals of the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the late South African president Nelson Mandela, and the capture of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba is a CEO, model, and activist born in Vancouver, Canada, and of Somali Descent. Ms. Elba was appointed the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in April 2020 and has since dedicated herself to the challenges faced by rural women and girls. Ms. Elba also works with various civil society organizations (CSOs), including Farm Africa, Conservation International, and the European Board for Global Citizen. She received a TIME100 Impact award and The Crystal Awards from the World Economic Forum.