UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker received the “So the World May Hear” award at a special Awards Gala, organized on 20 June 2014 by the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Forest Whitaker was designated in recognition of the work that his foundation, the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) conducts in partnership with UNESCO.
WPDI strives to help communities impacted by destructive conflicts and gang violence. Its objective is to prepare a new generation of active global citizens through youth empowerment, as well as training programs in peace-building, conflict resolution and the use of ICTs. The foundation is active in a number of places, including Mexico, the United States, Uganda and South Sudan.
In his acceptance speech before an audience which included Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, Forest Whitaker evoked his recent mission with Starkey Hearing Foundation to Uganda, during which he personally helped equip patients with hearing aid technology.
Forest Whitaker recounted his mission in June to South Sudan together with the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. He recalled how they met with a group of 300 young teachers who had just graduated from a UNESCO-supported literacy program. Forest Whitaker told of being impressed by the young people he encountered and by their eagerness to learn and to work for the welfare of their communities.
He spoke of the youth participants of the WPDI’s Youth Peacemaker Network, which was temporarily suspended due to the outbreak of a near civil war in December 2013. When the fighting broke out, many of the WPDI youths contacted each other and coordinated their efforts as they travelled around the country advocating for non-violence. They called each other with warnings when they knew there was danger on the road ahead.
In his speech Forest Whitaker also mentioned the Cinema for Peace program, which was recently launched by his foundation in the UN Protection of Civilians (POC) camps to help promote peace and reconciliation.
Starkey Hearing Foundation works to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities around the world. A member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the organization has pledged to provide more than 1 million hearing aids in the next decade.