United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

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


    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.


    Raising awareness about the SDGs through visual elements can have significant impact & inspire change. SPA took on the social sphere & raised SDG awareness to the global society in 13 different languages, including sign language – leaving no one behind. SPA engaged photographers with the 5 P’s of SDGs (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace, & Partnership) that served as the categories. Social media was used as main platform to reach the global society with a tailored #SDGSxHIPA hashtag, complemented by radio interviews, press releases, & as outcome – a tailored publication & travelling exhibition. The social media campaign reached 3.8m global citizens in 120 countries, through 13 languages, of which 7,040 photographs were submitted to highlight challenges & solutions to the categories, globally.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    Implementing a global plan to elevate prosperity whilst leaving no one behind without awareness, will be a great challenge. Therefore, SPA addressed the lack of global awareness about the SDGs, & furthermore educated, activated, & inspired photographers around the world to engage with the SDGs by submitting their photographs to SPA. In continuation to raise global awareness about the SDGs, a publication has been published, a travelling exhibition engaged civil society through 15 exhibits including a virtual exhibition & a special data story features on the UAE’s SDG Data Hub.

    Implementation methodologies

    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

    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).

    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.

    Contact Name
    Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre (FCSC)
    Geographical coverage

    FCSC, in collaboration with Hamdan International Photography Awards (HIPA), launched SPA to raise global awareness around the SDGs. SPA reach 3.8m people globally in 13 languages, with 132 nationalities participating the in the inaugural award

    26 May 2019 (start date)
    31 July 2019 (date of completion)
    More information
    United Arab Emirates
    United Arab Emirates
    Contact Information

    Christiaan, Lead Projects Manager