On Friday, October 21, hundreds of leaders came to The Beverly Hilton—and over 130,000 more joined via livestream—to participate in the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Symposium and Prize Ceremony, honoring the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient, Norwegian Refugee Council. This year’s theme “The Power of Perseverance” guided the topics addressed at the daylong symposium by esteemed speakers, including: Soledad O’Brien, Warsan Shire, Lynsey Addario, Joyce Msuya, Dr. Natalia Kanem, and many more.
Soledad O’Brien, who served as Master of Ceremonies, opened the day with a motivating call to action: “We must find ways to build our future together to ensure the humanitarian system reflects the challenges of today and truly serves those who need it most. That’s why a moment like this, where we can bring together inspirational leaders working directly on these issues is so important.”
Following O’Brien’s opening, writer and poet Warsan Shire offered powerful reflections with her poetry from her newest collection, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head.
The conversation that followed, “Hope Over Fate: The Science Of Ending Global Poverty,” opened with a reading by Scott MacMillan, Director of Learning and Innovation, BRAC USA from his new book, “Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty.” Zainab Salbi, Hilton Humanitarian Prize Juror; Founder, Women for Women International (2006 Prize Laureate); TV Host; and Author then sat down with Shameran Abed, Executive Director, BRAC International (2008 Prize Laureate) to discuss BRAC’s living legacy of impactful development delivered at scale. Abed underscored that treating individuals with dignity is at the core of that success: “The agency of the person is so important…You can’t look at this person as the recipient of aid. Development is not given from one person to another – it’s actually taken. How do you build that confidence and self-awareness in people? It’s the idea of hope, but it’s more than just hope. We were helping people to survive but not helping them move out of that state of existence… it’s dehumanizing. That didn’t come from Northern learning, it came from Southern experience, and people working in the Global South with people and figuring out what do you actually need to do to pull people out of poverty sustainably.”
Afterward, Soledad O’Brien sat down with Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director – Africa, CAMFED (2021 Prize Laureate), for “Girls’ Education As a Catalyst For Change: A Conversation.” Murimirwa spoke about CAMFED receiving the 2021 Hilton Humanitarian Prize in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and made a connection to the event’s theme: “Perseverance is hope, action, commitment. CAMFED’s women leaders have LIVED exclusion. Now they’re committed to keeping girls in school – their power became evident during the COVID pandemic, when we kept girls safe and learning.”
Next came a captivating panel discussion entitled “Refugee Resilience: Guiding the Way Forward.” The panel was moderated by Peter Laugharn, President and CEO, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, in discussion with John Thon Majok, Director of Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Zarlasht Halaimzai, Founder and CEO, Amna, and Sana Ali Mustafa, CEO, Asylum Access. Halamzai challenged the audience to consider the root cause of displacement: “Conflict, inequality and poverty are the result of global structures of power.” Majok followed: “Refugees are not the problem. They are the symptoms of the problem.”
The morning closed with a tribute to Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-founder, Partners In Health (2005 Prize Laureate), who passed away in February 2022.
Later that afternoon, programming resumed with the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Ceremony honoring the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient, Norwegian Refugee Council. Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) delivered remarks in the opening of the ceremony in which she recounted a conversation with a woman, Azrak, in a refugee camp in Yemen and the call to action it provokes for the humanitarian sector: “She told me, like others I have met, that what she wants is to be given the power to take care of her family. Jobs, basic services, education. This is what the humanitarian and development sector must deliver for her and millions like her who are forced to flee from war, persecution and the impacts of our hotter world. This is the mission that lies before us. Let us undertake it with a perseverance that honors the right of every single person to a home, to a life of dignity, to a life where they no longer have to wander this earth alone, in darkness and poverty.”
Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of Norwegian Refugee Council, then came on stage to receive the award on behalf of the organization. In his acceptance remarks, Egeland highlighted three points he wanted the audience to walk away with: “Number one, the need for perseverance in this very challenging period; secondly, the opportunities we have to reach more people, and the moral obligation we have to reach many more people in their hour of greatest need; and thirdly, the hope that they have that we can realize with them.”
Using powerful images and storytelling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Photojournalist Lynsey Addario came on stage next, delivering a moving presentation that visually recounted her assignments that have taken her around the world covering different humanitarian crises—from Ukraine to Somalia.
In closing, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, delivered encouraging remarks after a remarkably inspiring day full of important and thought-provoking discussions: “With partners like Norwegian Refugee Council, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and all of you here today, I’m confident we can put a decisive end to the injustices that lead to the movement of people…and secure a peace, life and larger freedom for all…The secret of our success is that we never, ever give up with the power of perseverance.”
The afternoon ended with a special musical performance by musician and writer K’naan, during which he beautifully honored his Somalian roots and lifted the energy of the audience with art and song.
The playlist below contains recordings from the event. The icon in the upper-right of the video embed lists available videos.