Photo of the Halftime Show
Photo credit: UN Partnerships/Pier Paolo Cito
18 September 2023

The Halftime Show: Song, stories, and solutions

Musicians, athletes, and world leaders come together in call for SDG action

Powerful exhortations from UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, inspiring speeches from Goodwill Ambassadors including Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker; and mesmerizing musical performances.

These were some of the key ingredients to The Halftime Show on Monday evening, a unique experience inspiring the audience at the SDG Pavilion, and those watching live around the world, to push for decisive and transformative action that will bring the Sustainable Development Goals closer to reality by the 2030 Deadline.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Mohammed reminded the audience that there are still seven years to go. “The game is never won in the first half. It's the second half, and so we are going to win with 17 goals by 2030. Leaders owe us to deliver on the promise. It is now that we have to step up and bring the world with us. We can do it and we are going to start today”.

 “We can win this in the second half, but it requires all of us working together,” declared Ms. Mottley. “People and planet are indivisible.” The Prime Minister called out the flaws in power structures that fail to protect the dignity of each human life, and called on citizens to recognize the agency that they have to improve the world.

Actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom raised the issue of child mortality, reminding the audience that thousands of children under the age of five die every day. “As a father of two young children myself, the pain of this reality is just hard to conceive. We have the solution, and now it is time to double down on our commitment”.

Mr. Bloom warned of a generational catastrophe, if more efforts are not made to solve an education crisis which is currently seeing 244 million children out of school. “Let's go into the second half of the 2023 agenda with new energy, determination, collaboration. Children's rights are at the very heart of the SDGs”.

Since retiring as a professional footballer, former France and Manchester United player Patrice Evra has been open about his personal mental health challenges, and now campaigns on the issue. Returning to the Halftime theme, he described it as “the moment to regroup, analyze, accept the critics, and stay humble. You have to believe in yourself. As a captain I did not accept when people give up, when fear comes into you, when you don't want to take risks”. 

Mr. Evra said that his biggest personal win was overcoming his own mental trauma. “I did not call myself a victim, but a survivor. It is not a sprint, it's a marathon. We are at halftime, and we're going to succeed”.

Best known for portraying Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is an active Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Development Programme. He called on world leaders to cooperate across all sectors for urgent climate action, before it’s too late. “Choices we make and actions we take this week, and year after year, will have impacts for thousands of years ahead. Right now, we hold the future in our hands”.

Indigenous Ecuadorian environmental and human rights activist Helena Gualinga, from the Kichwa Sarayaku community, described her people’s fight against oil and shared a recent success story, the historic referendum vote to end oil exploitation in a critical parcel of the Yasuní National Park, the most biodiverse place on the planet.

Actor Forest Whitaker, a UN SDG Advocate and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, noted the fact that, whilst peace and justice for all are enshrined in the UN Charter, conflict and injustice are still experienced every day across the world. “At the halfway point of the Goals, we need to urgently take action to secure justice for all and drive sustainable development”.

The speeches were interspersed with emotionally charged performances from Ghanaian singer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Rocky Dawuni; UN Youth Poet Laureate Salome Agbarogi; Beninese-French singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo; Yo-Yo Ma, cellist and UN Messenger of Peace; Amir Siraj, pianist and astrophysicist; and Nigerian singer and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Yemi Alade.

The closing remarks were delivered by actor and UN SDG Advocate Dia Mirza, who imagined how historians would judge today’s leaders and policymakers on the extent to which they managed to achieve the SDGs. “It is now up to all of all to ensure that the SDGs are achieved in full and on time,” she said. “We need to make a personal commitment to the Goals in our own lives and spread that awareness and action through all the work that we do every day”.

The Halftime Show was produced by SDG Advocate and screenwriter Richard Curtis. It was co-hosted by UN Secretary-General’s SDG Advocate Co-Chair Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.

Watch the Halftime Show again [HERE].

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