United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

SDG Photography Award (SPA); Raising Global Awareness about the SDGs through the lens’ of photographers

Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre (FCSC) (

    FCSC curate the Secretariat of the UAE National Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Committee consist of 16 federal level entities, mandated to report & monitor progress made towards the SDGs to UAE cabinet. Research showed that there is a great lack of global awareness about the SDGs. This inspired a collaboration with a global leader in photography awards, HIPA, to raise SDG awareness in 13 languages, reaching 3.8m global citizens. The photography community responded positively with 132 nationalities participating in SPA, highlighting challenges & solutions from the smallest villages to mega cities. A publication & exhibition continues raising awareness.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    A number of previous photography awards has been done before, & during the R&D process of the SDG Photography Award (SPA), the team concluded that these photography awards were all done in countries, or regions. Therefore, our aim to have global impact through the lens is innovative & a breakthrough concept. The innovation, SPA, encouraged the global society to learn more about the SDGs in 13 different languages, including sign language, to ensure inclusivity. SPA’s inaugural launch is the first of its kind to have a sheikh’s name linked to it. The collaboration with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum (HIPA) inspired HIPA’s network base to learn more about the SDGs, but also provided credibility to the Award. The judges from the SPA, are all phenomenal photographers themselves with great resumes including one judge being one of eleven ‘Women of Vision’ by National Geographic Magazine in 2013, Ms. Maggie Stebber. SDG 5 was at the core appointing judges, with 2 from each gender. The result of the award is a transformation by itself having 132 nationalities participated, by sharing their photographs that captured breakthrough solutions to global challenges, or challenges communities are facing. The award was designed to create ongoing awareness toward 2030, hence a traveling exhibition was created & displayed at different local & international events & post COVID in virtual format, inspiring change about a better world. In addition, the publication serves a great tool for further awareness with soft copy available to download, explore, raise awareness, educate & inspire change. A SPA data story on the UAE SDG Data Hub, invite viewers on a visual representation of the award that includes the background, videos & interactive maps with geo-located photographs


    SPA raised awareness to 3.8m global citizens, from 132 nationalities. 4,105 photographers participated in SPA, leading to 7,040 photographs being submitted. Global society were educated, inspired, & called to action through 13 languages, including sign language. An award ceremony attracted global media coverage, where 5 photographers from 5 countries were announced. A publication were published at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2020, & was complemented by a travel exhibition in high-footfall areas, such as the Dubai Mall, reaching approx. 250,000 civil society members from different demographical backgrounds. An online exhibition featured at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week virtual event, reaching thousands of attendees across the globe. Key messages included that the SDGs are not only the responsibility of public/private sectors, but also the duty of the academia, research institutions, youth & the global society. SPA won multiple international awards, driving SDG awareness

    Enabling factors and constraints

    Partnerships enabled SPA to take place & elevate global awareness. It included media coverage from Dubai Media Office & engagements with the UAE Permanent Mission to the UN. Financing the global campaign was done through FCSC, with technological support from HIPA as the main platform for submissions. Furthermore, technology played an immense role to raise awareness around the SDGs through social media platforms, radio & a data story featured on the SDG Data Hub (an Esri collaboration), apart from a e-publication. Human resources included volunteers who committed their time to translate and videotape 13 languages to elevate the global reach.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Sustainability is at the core of the success of SPA, with an e-publication available to all-of-society, a virtual exhibition creating further awareness about the SDGs & a data-story with significant amount of data related to the first edition of SPA. Photographs are being utilized in various elements, including social media campaigns, to highlight challenges and solutions in global & national context. SPA inspires adoption and replication to any organization to progress awareness and engagement of civil society, whether it is through a photography awards tailored to sustainable development, documentaries, or other virtual realms of raising awareness about the SDGs. At the time of writing, there are interest from various partners to deliver a second edition or tailor it to focus on documentaries related to the SDGs, apart from having exhibitions at Expo2020, & the headquarters of the United Nations through the office of DSG Amina Mohammed (the latter being delayed due to COVID-19).

    Other sources of information

    1. UAE SDG Data Hub: SDG Photography Award data story: http://bit.ly/SPA_SDGDataHub 2. SDG Photography Award Virtual Exhibition http://bit.ly/VirtualExhibition_1of5 3. ‘Our World - Through the Lens’ publication: http://bit.ly/SDGSxHIPA 4. PRL: http://bit.ly/SPA_PressRelease 5. Dubai Carbon, The Sustainabilist: http://bit.ly/DubaiCarbon_Sustainabilist 6. SDG Photography Award results: https://youtu.be/s_5jjbsJi3A 7. Dubai Mall exhibition: https://www.instagram.com/p/B9BmPUxHfPO/ 8. Award ceremony at the Dubai Frame: https://www.instagram.com/p/B4A3VdHHJUk/ 9. SPA Video: https://youtu.be/o5T8Ctc3oMY

    COVID-19 Impact

    A Global Reality Becomes a Virtual Opportunity – Raising Awareness around the SDGs through a Virtual Exhibition at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), which is a global platform for accelerating the world’s sustainable development. In 2021, ADSW took to the virtual world where more than 500 speakers shared their expertise in support to define new pathways in a post COVID-19 realm. The event sessions’ has been viewed more than 100,000 times, from 175 countries. The FCSC, in collaboration with HIPA and ADSW, is proud to have taken part in ADSW 2021 through the means of a virtual exhibition of the SDG Photography Award.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    26 May 2019 (start date)
    31 July 2019 (date of completion)
    Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre (FCSC)
    Other beneficiaries

    The global society benefited from SPA through educational social media and media contents, with the main aim to raise SDG awareness. SPA was launched by FCSC in collaboration with HIPA, & the UAE National Committee on SDGs. Partnerships with the public/private sector led to 14 exhibitions around the UAE (including the famous Dubai Mall), and resulted in a virtual exhibition at the world renowned Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2021.

    More information
    United Arab Emirates
    United Arab Emirates
    Contact Information

    Christiaan, Lead Projects Manager