Forest Whitaker: Hollywood and UN SDG

You’re used to seeing Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker take the lead on the big screen. But, increasingly, he’s trying to lead the way on global sustainability issues, too.

That’s because he believes he has a personal role to play in improving the planet, the “Black Panther” star told CNBC Make It.

It all started with a phone call from the United Nations in 2006. Whitaker had just wrapped filming “The Last King of Scotland” and was helping a friend volunteer with child soldiers in Uganda when the international peace organization got in touch to find out more.

“The UN saw what I was doing and asked if I would come in and talk about what was going on,” said Whitaker.

The project had not been on the UN’s radar, he said, nor on the agenda of local government. So, he decided he had to do more himself.

The actor set about extending his charity work, and, in 2012, set up the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, a non-governmental organization designed to help communities torn apart by violence in Africa and North America. In 2015, in recognition of his work, Whitaker was named as an advocate for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — 17 targets aimed at tackling global challenges such as poverty and climate change by 2030.

“When the UN Secretary-General appointed me as SDG advocate, it was very clear for me that this agenda was different from previous ones,” Whitaker told audiences at Temasek Ecosperity 2018, a sustainability conference in Singapore in June.

“It did not presume that governments and international organizations are going to do everything and substitute themselves for people and communities.”

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