Global Sustainability Leaders Take Top Prize at United Nations SDG Action Awards

Green Obsession, Signpost, and World Cleanup Day honoured for action and excellence in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN SDG Action Campaign
5 min readJul 24, 2023
From Left to Right: Nazir Atul & Emmanuel Mushy (Changemaker Finalists), Nery Santaella (Changemaker Winner), Alicia Pepe (Connect Winner: Signpost), Nadira Hira (MC), Marina Ponti (Global Director, UN SDG Action Campaign), Sabrina Dhowre Elba (Honourable Mention), Matias Nahuel Muños (Inspire Finalist: Buenos Aires Climate Action), Heidi Solba (Mobilize Winner: World Cleanup Day), Thaís De Conti Travain (Connect Finalist: Youth Parliament), Efe Ukala (Mobilize Finalist: ImpactHER), Maria Chiara Pastore (Inspire Winner: Green Obsession). Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

ROME, Italy — An architectural vision committed to urban climate action, an organization devoted to global environmental cleanup, and an international initiative focused on supporting migrants and refugees are among the winners of the 2023 United Nations SDG Action Awards, a global event in which activists, mobilizers, and changemakers are recognized for their work in scaling up sustainability and social justice efforts while driving action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN SDG Action Campaign has announced.

Labelled the “Oscars of the SDGs,” this year’s edition of the UN SDG Action Awards took place in Rome, Italy, on the margins of the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment, hosted by the Government of Italy, and in partnership with the three Rome-based UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) — as well as the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub and the wider UN system.

The 2023 UN SDG Action Award winners span the gamut of individual action and organizational purpose and represent a diverse cross-section of international activism for the SDGs in four specific categories: MOBILIZE, INSPIRE, CONNECT, and CHANGEMAKER. This year’s winners for the categories include World Cleanup Day, Stefano Boeri Architetti’s Green Obsession, and the International Rescue Committee’s Signpost initiative. In addition, IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba received Honourable Mention for their work in propelling the role smallholder farmers play in global agriculture into the media spotlight.

Sabrina Dhowre Elba, 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Honourable Mention. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Heidi Solba, 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Mobilize Winner: World Cleanup Day. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Maria Chiara Pastore, 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Inspire Winner: Green Obsession. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Alicia Pepe, 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Connect Winner: Signpost. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Nery Santaella, 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Changemaker Winner. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Marina Ponti, Global Director, UN SDG Action Campaign. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

“The 2023 UN SDG Action Awards come as we approach the midpoint of Agenda 2030 — a critical crossroads in our journey towards a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive future for all,” said Marina Ponti, Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign. “Most importantly, they offer us an opportunity to honour and recognize the extraordinary individuals who are inspiring change and driving meaningful action for the SDGs.”

Watch the 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Ceremony

The 2023 edition of the Awards received over 5,000 high-quality applications from 190 countries covering the full breadth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The Winner for the MOBILIZE category, World Cleanup Day, is celebrated for its work in coordinating global one-day waste cleanups that have rallied over 70 million people from more than 190 countries. Green Obsession, the winner in the INSPIRE category, is acknowledged for its work changing city paradigms and emphasizing urban forests as a priority for governments around the world, ensuring a greener future for all. The International Rescue Committee’s Signpost initiative took top prize in the CONNECT category for being the world’s first scalable approach to running digital, community-driven, and responsive information platforms in countries where people are impacted by conflict, disasters, poverty, and violence. And in the CHANGEMAKER category, Nery Santaella won for her Voices of Venezuela — a migrants-helping-migrants model that has helped over 600,000 individuals.

Along with the Winners, this year’s Finalists also included an inspiring array of individuals and organizations such as ImpactHER, an Africa-based initiative that has mobilized and trained over 7.5 million women entrepreneurs across 53 African countries to unlock their economic potential and fight poverty; Buenos Aires Climate Action, which aims to inspire and engage citizens of Buenos Aires in climate action with the vision of becoming a carbon neutral, resilient, and inclusive city by 2050; Youth Parliament, a Brazilian effort that empowers youth for civic life and democratic engagement; and Nazir Atul and Emmanuel Mushy, who were nominated for VAS Hub, a collaborative project that aims to reduce youth unemployment and engagement in informal/unproductive sectors.

The 2023 Winners now join an illustrious set of UN SDG Action Awards alumni and will ally with the UN SDG Action Campaign for the 2023 Global Week, during which more than 150 million people will be mobilized around the world to drive action for the SDGs.

H.E. Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Government of Italy, at the 2023 UN SDG Action Awards Ceremony. Photo © FAO/Cristiano Minichiello
H.E. Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Government of Italy. Photo © FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

“Today, we saw initiatives and individuals that are mobilizing, inspiring, and connecting people each day,” H.E. Antonio Tajani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Government of Italy, said in his closing remarks at the Awards Ceremony. “I wish to congratulate you for your efforts and commitment to accelerate progress toward the SDGs.”

“I am very pleased to have joined you today and see how many of you offer proof of the possibilities,” Mr. Tajani added.

The UN SDG Action Campaign is a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General hosted by the Executive Office of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). It was established to unite people from across the world to take action for the SDGs and to connect civil society, local governments, and people working in the arts and culture, media, and private sectors in championing the SDGs in homes, communities and beyond. In that role, the Campaign is mandated to MOBILIZE, INSPIRE, AND CONNECT people and organizations from all sectors and geographies to take actions to achieve the SDGs, including through the annual UN SDG Action Awards.

“At the UN SDG Action Campaign, we are proud to host an event that brings people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired — and to unite for change,” continued Ms. Ponti. “Because the world needs unity and change now more than ever if we are to achieve Agenda 2030. And it needs the remarkable creativity that all Awards finalists have brought here today.”

For more information and interview opportunities:

Andrew Zaganelli Giacalone
Lead, Communications & Outreach |



UN SDG Action Campaign

Official account of the UN SDG Action Campaign, aiming to mobilize, inspire & connect a movement to #FlipTheScript for the #GlobalGoals