Two sides of the turning point visualized through powerful Uğur Gallenkuş series

UN SDG Action Campaign
6 min readOct 20, 2020


COVID-19 is turning our lives upside down. People all around the world are taking to the streets and joining in solidarity for a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine and create a better future. One that is more equal. More active on climate change. That ends poverty. And protects health.

We have the universal plan we need for a just and sustainable recovery from the pandemic: the Sustainable Development Goals.

This September, while world leaders met virtually at the UN General Assembly, more than 56 MILLION people from 700 organizations in more than 175 countries and 1,000 cities around the world joined the Global Week to #ACT4SDGs to #TurnItAround and helped make this a turning point for people and the planet.

Together with award-winning visual artist Uğur Gallenkuş and creative agencies, a series of powerful images showing the two sides of this turning point for people and the planet have been shared by thousands of people on social media and seen on screens in all major German cities. Thanks to a series of partnerships with the private creative sector in Germany, including Weischer, Ströer, Edgar Ambient Media Group and Wunderman Thompson Germany, the #TurnItAround campaign was featured in subways, train stations and malls in 17 cities throughout the Ströer Public Video Network (including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne and Hamburg), as well as on Cinema Channel on 185 cinema screens in 150 cities throughout Germany.

These powerful images serve as powerful conversation starters to help us visualize what we NO longer want, from gender-based violence to polluted cities, and how our world could look like when we #TurnItAround.


About the Editorial Photo:

“To photograph the victims of coronavirus in Indonesia is the most heartbreaking, most eerie photography I have ever done. In my mind at the time I only thought what happened to this person may well happen to people I love, people we all love. I’ve witnessed first-hand how the doctors and nurses are continuously risking their lives to save ours. They are the true heroes of this story, and the only way to appreciate their work is to follow what they advise us.” — Joshua Irwandi

Artwork: Uğur Gallenkuş @ugurgallen

Editorial Photo: Joshua Irwandi @joshirwandi
This photograph was created with the National Geographic COVID-19 Emergency Fund and the Forhanna Foundation Young Talent Grant.

Air Pollution

Around the world, 9 out of every 10 people breathe unclear air. It causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year. Air pollution also threatens the economy, food security and the environment. This week marked the first International Day of Clear Air for blue skies. #WorldCleanAirDay

“As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution, which also increases the risks associated with COVID-19. We must also urgently address the deeper threat of climate change […] We need dramatic and systemic change. Reinforced environmental standards, policies and laws that prevent emissions of air pollutants are needed more than ever. And at the international level, countries need to cooperate to help each other transition to clean technologies […] Let us work together to build a better future with #CleanAirForAll.” — António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Source: World Health Organization

Artwork: Uğur Gallenkuş @ugurgallen


The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, up to 99% in low and lower-middle income countries.

Preventing a learning crisis from becoming a generational catastrophe requires urgent action from all. Education is not only a fundamental human right, it is a global common good and a primary driver of progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a bedrock of just, equal, inclusive peaceful societies.

When education systems collapse, peace, prosperous and productive societies cannot be sustained.

Governments and leaders must act now to:

  • Reimagine education and accelerate change in teaching and learning
  • Suppress transmission of the virus and plan thoroughly for school re-openings
  • Protect education financing and coordinate for impact
  • Build resilient education systems for equitable and sustainable development

Source: UNESCO

Artwork: Uğur Gallenkuş

Editorial Photo: Diego Ibarra Sanchez, @diego.ibarra.sanchez
Girls in Pakistan attend a school in Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa


In crisis after crisis, the same groups feel the strongest effects.

On inequalities it’s clear that going back to pre-pandemic policies won’t solve todays’ crises or achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

80 million people were forced to flee their homes last year as a result of conflict and violence — an estimated 30–34 million of whom were children below 18 years of age.

And those that have the least are often most affected. Developing countries hosted 85% of the world’s refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad. The Least Developed Countries provided asylum to 27% of the total.

Source: UNHCR

Artwork: Ugur Gallenkus @ugurgallen

Editorial Photo: Yasin Akgül, @yasinakgul2
A Syrian boy sits on a barrel of a destroyed tank, Syria

Gender Equality

With stay-at-home orders to contain the spread of the virus, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them.

Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls, and particularly domestic violence, has INTENSIFIED, resulting in a spike of around 30% in some countries. Less than 40% of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort.

Governments and leaders must act now to:

  • Allocate additional resources and include evidence-based measures to address violence against women and girls in COVID-19 national response plans.
  • Strengthen services for women who experience violence during COVID-19
  • Build capacity of key services to prevent impunity and improve quality of response
  • Put women at the centre of policy change, solutions and recovery
  • Ensure sex-disaggregated data is collected to understand the impact of COVID-19 on violence against women and girls and inform the response

Source: UN Women

Artwork: Uğur Gallenkuş @ugurgallen

Climate Action

2010–2019 was the warmest decade on record — wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, hurricanes, storms, thawing of permafrost and collapsing of glaciers and whole ecosystems. Many lives, especially of those in the most affected areas, have been lost or dramatically changed. We are in a global emergency that affects all of us.

If we are to stay below an increase of 1.5°C in global temperature we need to act now.

In their COVID-19 recovery, governments need to focus on creating green jobs, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and aligning any industry bailouts with international goals to limit global warming, and integrate sustainable development principles into all decision-making.

Source: NASA

Artwork: Uğur Gallenkuş @ugurgallen

#TurnItAround shared by thousands of people on social media and seen on screens in all major German cities



UN SDG Action Campaign

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