Forest Whitaker, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation

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Mr Forest Whitaker, world-famous actor, was designated as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation in June 2011. In May 2014, he was entrusted with the title of UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation in recognition of his efforts to highlight education as a power to promote peace and reconciliation between and within communities.

Forest Whitaker has long been an active supporter of UNESCO values, considering education as a vector of peace in the United States and around the world. His numerous participations in forums and conferences shed light on issues that can have devastating consequences in fragile regions, such as South Sudan and Uganda.

As President of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), he champions the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) programme, which aims to promote peace and reconciliation with educational tools in areas affected by conflict and violence. The WPDI works jointly with UNESCO in South Sudan, Uganda and Mexico. In 2012, the WPDI launched the Conflict Resolution Education (CRE) programme in the United States, contributing to the development of youth leadership and cohesion in schools.

In January 2016, the former United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Mr Whitaker as one of the 17 high profile individuals who assist in the campaign to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that world leaders unanimously adopted in September 2015 in New York.

As UNESCO Special Envoy, he urges that “promoting literacy and fostering lifelong learning are the building blocks that we need in order to achieve the SDGs and to facilitate peacebuilding more broadly. It is impossible for us to make progress in reducing inequality, encouraging responsible consumption, or ensuring everyone lives healthy lives if people are not able to educate themselves. I see universal literacy as a starting point for advancing the entire sustainable agenda”.

In addition, Forest Whitaker is the co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace, a category II Institute under the auspices of UNESCO. It is based at Rutgers, in the United States of America.

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