The Asia Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award has gone to the Aga Khan for his contribution to improving the lives of millions of people around the world.
The pioneering Ismaili leader has achieved this through art and architecture, sustainable economic development, education and numerous other fields.
The Game Changer Lifetime Achievement Award is Asia Society’s most highly regarded honour, given annually to individuals, organisations and movements that have inspired, enlightened and shown exemplary leadership.
The Aga Khan is no ordinary choice for Asia Society, as he is a spiritual leader of the Ismaili communities worldwide as well as the inspirational and motivational force behind a global network involved with the high end of community welfare, sustainable development, art, architecture and culture.
Hundreds of projects currently are run internationally under the aegis of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a $900 million budget undertaking that employs 80,000 people in 30 countries.
At the award ceremony in New York 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 award was presented 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. The Asia Society was founded in 1956 by John D Rockefeller 3rd.
For the Aga Khan it is the fourth major honour bestowed in New York City during 2017, which also marks his Diamond Jubilee as the Ismaili spiritual leader. Earlier this year, the Aga Khan was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, 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 in a tribute to the Aga Khan cited the role of AKDN in ameliorating conditions among many other places, 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,” Sheeran said.
Eight others received Asia Society awards for making transformative and positive contributions. Those honoured 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; Leng Ouch, for risking his life to draw attention to illegal logging in Cambodia; 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.