His Highness the Aga Khan has received the Asia Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award— the society’s most esteemed— at the organisation’s Game Changer Award ceremony in New York.
The awards are presented annually to individuals, organisations, and movements that have inspired, enlightened, and shown true leadership in areas that reflect Asia Society’s core pillars of policy and business, arts and culture, and education.
Accepting the award on Friday “for improving the lives of millions in Asia and around the world,” through the initiatives of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the Aga Khan, accompanied by his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan, said, “Any leader of any global community hopes and prays for one thing – peace; peace in every community, in every country of the world, so that men and women can live in safety, build their futures with strength, courage, hope and wisdom. These are the values that the leaders of my community, my institutions and myself, are intimately linked with and will continue to work for, for many, many decades ahead.”
The Aga Khan was addressing a distinguished audience upon receiving the award that was presented to him by Sharon Rockefeller, President and CEO of WETA-TV and wife of former Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, together with Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City.
It represents the fourth major honour bestowed on the Aga Khan in New York City this year, which also marks his Diamond Jubilee as Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Earlier this year, he was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, and received the Architectural League of New York’s President’s Medal, and the United Nations Foundation’s Champion for Global Change Award.
“Through the Aga Khan’s network and his role as a spiritual leader, he has worked for decades to help build a more peaceful and tolerant world,” said Bloomberg.
“He has brought important attention to areas and issues that need it most, including protecting vulnerable communities from climate change, and helping young people develop new skills that can help them succeed. He has also been a champion of using public-private partnerships to spread economic opportunity, improve public health, and expand access to education.”
Asia Society’s President Josette Sheeran also paid tribute to the Aga Khan, recognising the role of the AKDN and its efforts in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
“We know the power of your work; I know the power of your network; I know what you have built. And we need more networks of people determined to say this is a world of good, this is a world of standing by each other, and this is what we honor here tonight,” she said.
In addition to the Aga Khan, eight other honorees were selected by the Asia Society’s global network this year, for making a transformative and positive difference for the future of Asia and the world.
Honorees included: Sesame Street, for proving learning can be fun anywhere in the world; actor Dev Patel for shining a spotlight on India’s poor; Sonita Alizadeh, for using rap music to fight trauma in Afghanistan; and Leng Ouch, for risking his life to draw attention to illegal logging in Cambodia.
Other were Jean Liu, for revolutionising transportation in China; Grammy winner Wu Tong, for showing that musical virtuosity has no bounds; Tadashi Yanai, for building a global retail empire that gives back to local communities; and famed eagle huntress, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, for breaking gender barriers at a remarkably young age.
Showcasing the music heritage of Asia at the event were artists of the Aga Khan Music Initiative Ensemble: Homayoun Sakhi, Salar Nader and Wu Man, master musicians who create new music inspired by their own deep cultural roots.