Aga Khan honoured as “Champion for Global Change” at top UN gala event

(The material on this page will be updated at regular intervals, as more information is made available – ed.)

The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) and the United Nations Foundation presented His Highness the Aga Khan with the “Champion for Global Change” Award at the annual Global Leadership Dinner held on October 18, 2017 at Gotham Hall in New York. The “Champion for Global Change” recognizes the work of the 49th Ismaili Imam in developing and improving the living conditions of populations from the four corners of the world. Earlier during the day, the Aga Khan met with the UN Secretary General, General António Guterres.

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 4Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, presents the Champion for Global Change Award to His Highness the Aga Khan at a special gala dinner held in New York on October 18, 2017. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim/ Mairaj Manji. 

Secretary General meets with Founder and Chairman, Aga Khan Development Network.United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Prince Karim Aga Khan, Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismailis at the UN on October 18, 2017. Photo credit: UN Photo/Eskender Debebe.

Billed as one of New York’s top events, the annual Global Leadership Dinner is central to calling the world’s attention to the work of the UN and supporting a peaceful, prosperous and just future. It is a unique event that brings together representatives from the diplomatic, business, government, philanthropic, media, entertainment, and social sectors. In addition to recognizing the work of the honorees in support of the UN, the event raises funds for the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), a UN Foundation campaign that works to inform, educate, and inspire Americans to support the UN.

The Aga Khan was accompanied at the event by his daughter Princess Zahra, and son Prince Aly Muhammad.

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 1The Aga Khan arrives at the 2017 United Nations Global Leadership Dinner. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim/ Mairaj Manji.

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 2Honourees and Special Guests at the 2017 United Nations Global Leadership Dinner. From left to right: Daniel Craig, Agnès Marcaillou, Kathy Calvin, His Highness the Aga Khan, Ellie Goulding, and Grant F. Reid. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim/Mairaj Manji

Watch this short 3:39 minute film on the Aga Khan and his work that has been posted by UNA-USA.

Gotham Hall New YorkGotham Hall on New York’s Broadway. Photo: Gotham Hall Website.

Gotham Hall New York Banquet HallBanquet Room at Gotham Hall, New York – the venue for the 2017 United Nations Global Leadership Dinner.

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 3His Highness the Aga Khan with Princess Zahra, Agnès Marcaillou, and Daniel Craig. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim/Mairaj Manji

Excerpts from the speech delivered by His Highness the Aga Khan

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 5His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the 2017 United Nations Global Leadership Dinner. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim/Mairaj Manji


“Thank you so much Kofi Annan for your generous words of introduction.  There is no person alive today who has made a greater contribution to world peace than you, and thanks are due to you from all around the world.

“For a long time, political debate all around the world focused on the competing merits of government action versus private enterprise.  My conviction, which has deepened through the years, is that these are false alternatives. The question is not which sector can be most effective in the march towards progress – the central question is how these sectors can best become effective partners in this quest.

“The concept of public-private partnerships has been one of the keys to the best work of our agencies….The public-private partnership formula alone, however, is incomplete – unless we also insert the words “Civil Society.”  The partnerships that will most dramatically change the world are those in which all three components – private, public and civil society institutions – can connect one with the another in all-embracing common effort.

“When that happens, other concepts emphasised by the UN Foundation also come alive.  I have been impressed, for example, by the innovative terminology the Foundation uses in expressing its goals:  like these three dynamic words:  “Catalysing”, “multiplier”,  and “effects.”  Think about it.

“The notion of “catalysing multiplier effects” reflects a similar dynamic to what I refer to as  “trampoline” projects for development.  These projects are best-practice examples of balanced partnerships between governments, private entities and civil society, threaded together by innovative thinking, intelligent structures, and clear lines of communication.  Well-defined goals and responsibilities are essential, as is the buy-in of the target constituency.

“This goal is – to be candid – sometimes easier to talk about than to accomplish.

“Another central part of our Aga Khan Development Network’s approach is one that we also share with the United Nations Foundation: an emphasis on what we call “countries of opportunity”.  The issue is to do what we must to set them alive by creating and sustaining an enabling environment.

“And fundamental to all of this, of course, is a basic philosophical commitment which is expressed by another important word and that word is “pluralism”.  This is a frame of mind which regards diversity, multiplicity, and indeed difference itself – not as a burden nor a threat but as a gift – a Gift of the divine – an opportunity to learn rather than a danger to be avoided.

“So, it is with all of these thoughts in mind that I say again how proud I am to be here to accept your award – recognising how it reinforces not only the important “words” but also the useful concepts, and indeed the central “values” that we – all of us – hold in common.”

Date posted: August 18, 2017.
Last updated:  November 2, 2017 (added video of event, top of page).


The material in this post has been compiled from numerous sources including, and Please read the full text of His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech at

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