Awareness for Sustainability through a Photography Competition

Visual images have dominated our culture and education in the 20th and the 21st centuries. The Secretariat of the UAE National Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) launched a great initiative with the UAE SDG Photography Award 2019 in collaboration with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA).

The award was created with the idea to raise global awareness of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) on an international level and inspire change through pictures.

The initiative captured global attention and it reached more than 3.8 million people around the world in only 9 weeks through social media, radio and press. The social media campaign under the UN SDGs slogan leave no one behind featured 13 different languages in order to spread awareness globally in order to reach as many people as possible.

The total number of participants reached 4,105 contestants from 132 countries. Over 7,000 photos were submitted covering the award’s five categories themes: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships. The wining photographs are telling us so many stories.

PEOPLE, Turan Topalar, Turkey

“Syrian Refugees in Istanbul”- Having escaped the war, these Syrian refugees live in Suleymaniye District, Istanbul, despite all the challenges the region faces. They have made their home in the urban transformation areas, empty fields and ruined buildings.

PLANET, Rakesh Pulapa, India

Distinguished Similarities”- A fine line between urban development and nature. We need to preserve our trees in order to protect our planet’s natural resources and climate for future generations.

PROSPERITY, Danilo O. Victoriano Jr, Philippines

“Wind of hope”- The project on renewable energy sources helping to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Whilst providing electricity for industrial needs, it brings benefits to the poor families in the rural communities in the Philippines giving them not only lights but also a hope for a brighter future by helping the education of their children.

PEACE, Jubo Cao, China

“A wedding celebration”- A Tajik family welcomes the bride to the family in a peaceful way inspiring hope in the Pamir Plateau of Xinjiang, China.

PARTNERSHIPS, Hussein Alshafai, Egypt

“Base”- The workers are involved in the construction of a tower building representing a technical combination similar to an abstract painting.

Many UAE photographers participated in the award and three managed to reach the exhibition phase:

PLANET, Mohamed Abdulla Mohamed, UAE

“Ghost Net”- Abandoned fishing nets can turn the pristine environments into ghost towns in a matter of days. Some people call them silent killers as they can last for many years killing everything on their path, from the small snapper like the one in the picture to the mighty whales of the ocean. I joined Dubai voluntary diving team in their mission to support SDG 14: Life below water, fighting ghost nets in the Arabian Gulf and I was overwhelmed by the amount of destruction that these nets can cause.


“To the Power Source”- One of the main sources of sustainable development in the field of renewable energy is solar energy. This shot of a simple scene expresses one of the UAE’s strategies in using solar energy and generating electricity from it in a clean, renewable, cost-efficient way. The scene is a sequence of power grids extending to the main energy source, the sun.

PEACE, Sulaiman Eid Al Hammadi, UAE

“Girl of Peace”- A little girl from the heart of the Indian Kashmir. She welcomed us with a beautiful gesture (branch of a tree) that symbolizes love, tolerance and peace.

We asked a member of the secretariat UAE National Committee on SDGs, if we can expect this great initiative to continue every year, to what they responded:

“The first season of the award has made great strides to raise global awareness, and as an innovation driven entity, we were tasked to deliver the next big concept later in 2020. It might be photography, it might be another visual form of raising global awareness around the SDGs… Follow @UAESDGs for exciting announcements and to know more about how you can be part of the sustainable development journey of the UAE, and the world.”

For everybody who wants to dive deeper into these masterpieces, there is a chance to see them.

“The SDG Photography Award exhibition is a traveling exhibition. The exhibition will be back at ADNEC during the World Urban Forum early February. After that, enthusiasts can visit Dubai Mall from 17 to 29 February and enjoy the exhibition. Follow @UAESDGs to know more about where the exhibition will be next.”

Reem Al Hammadi,
The projects Executive at the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority and the member of the Secretariat of the UAE National Committee on SDGs, shared with us.


A copy of the publication can also be downloaded from The Secretariat of the UAE National Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) website For more information on coming events follow #UAESDGS 

The Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) is a federal government authority reporting to UAE Cabinet. In January 2017, UAE’s National Committee on SDGs was formed by decree of the UAE Cabinet. FCSA serves as vice-chair and secretariat for the Committee.

Hamdan International Photography Award is an international photography award, founded in 2011 under the patronage of crown prince of Dubai sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum. The Award appeals to all talented photographers across the globe, and also nurtures national talent, which will in turn attract international art and cultural attention. The Award highlights how Dubai is fast developing into one of the most artistically conscious and established cities in the world.