» Forest Whitaker, Artist and UNESCO Special Envoy, calls upon world leaders to invest in youth
23.09.2016 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Forest Whitaker, Artist and UNESCO Special Envoy, calls upon world leaders to invest in youth

© UN Photo / Loey Felipe

Forest Whitaker, social activist and UNESCO Special Envoy, was at the United Nations Headquarters to participate in the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund Pledging Conference, on 21 September 2016. The event was organized to encourage more UN Member States to increase their financial support to the Peacebuilding Fund, particularly funding to conflict affected countries. Since its creation in 2006, the Peacebuilding Fund has financed over 400 projects in more than 30 countries. The Fund currently supports 120 projects in over 20 countries.

Speaking after Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, Forest Whitaker expressed his conviction that peace is best served when children and youth are fully taken into account. “Young people,” he said, “are not only tomorrow’s leaders—they must also be today’s peacebuilders.”

Through his work as a UNESCO Special Envoy, as an SDG Advocate, and with his foundation, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), Forest works with young women and men from conflict-affected countries to promote peace in their communities. UNESCO's response to peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism aims to ensure that young women and men are empowered to live up to their potential as positive change actors and ensure that their  communities are safer, stronger, and more resilient.

In his speech, Forest told the stories of these are remarkable young women and men, highlighting their courage and willingness to help others. “The 1.8 billion people on our planet between the ages of 10 and 24 would represent a tremendous force for good if world leaders invested as much time, energy, and money in their education and development as we do in fighting wars,” he said.

He also reminded the audience that the benefits of investing in conflict prevention are not always obvious, but that, at the end of the day, it is what matters most.
In his conclusion, he called upon governments to make a commitment in our youth and our future to transform the world in ways that were never thought possible.

Forest Whitaker’s address was followed by interventions from various officials, including representatives from the governments co-hosting the conference: Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the United Kingdom.. The event culminated with 26 states pledging a further 151 million USD.

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