This year in Davos we celebrate the 22nd Annual Crystal Awards. The awards, which Klaus and I conceived of together with our late friend, the violinist and conductor Lord Yehudi Menuhin back in the early 90’s, recognize artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world.

Given the geopolitical realities of the time when we launched the award, its purpose was at first to recognize artists who were inspiring cross-cultural understanding and trust across nations. While this remains as true as ever, as the world has changed so too has the award evolved to also embrace those exceptional artists who deal with some of the other major global issues, including the environment, social inclusion, health, education, food security and peace-making. Through the years there have been more than 80 recipients of the Crystal Award, including artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Christo & Jeanne Claude, Matt Damon, Peter Gabriel, Shirin Neshat, Sidney Poitier, Mario Vargas Llosa and many others.

The 2016 group of awardees is as exceptional as ever. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to this year’s awardees: actors Yao Chen and Leonardo DiCaprio, artist Olafur Eliasson, and musician and entrepreneur will.i.am.

Awardees

Yao Chen, for her leadership in raising awareness of the refugee crisis

A beloved Chinese actress, known as the “Queen of Weibo” for having the most followers on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (78 million), Yao Chen has used her high profile to influence the public on a range of issues, including environmental pollution and food safety. She is perhaps best known for her role as the UNHCR’s honorary patron for China - regularly visiting refugee camps in the Philippines, Thailand, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Pakistan. Chen says: “helping others also fulfils the needs of the helper. We can only survive by needing and depending on each other”.

Leonardo DiCaprio, for his leadership in tackling the climate crisis

A globally recognized actor and producer, Leonardo DiCaprio has long been a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability. With the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which he founded in 1998, he has been active on a range of sustainability topics, including the protecting of key species, among them sharks in California, tigers in Asia, and elephants in Africa. He has also called on world leaders to address climate change and was designated as the United Nations Messenger of Peace for Climate Change. DiCaprio says: “Clean air, water, and a liveable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics, it is a question of our own survival.”

Olafur Eliasson, for his leadership in creating inclusive communities

A world-renowned artist, Olafur Eliasson has created large-scale installations and designs that have contributed to redefining the essence of cities and communities. Some of his major works include The New York City Waterfalls, Ice Watch, The Weather Project, and Riverbed. Since 2012, he has co-led Little Sun, a social business and global project addressing the need for providing light in a sustainable way that benefits communities without electricity, creates local jobs and generates local profits. Eliasson says: “Art offers one of the few places in our society today where people from various backgrounds can come together to share an experience while having different opinions. Disagreement is not only accepted but encouraged. Art helps us identify with one another and expands our notion of we—from the local to the global”.

will.i.am, for his leadership in creating educational opportunities for the underserved

An award-winning musician, known for his work with The Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am is a multi-faceted entertainer and creative innovator. With a commitment to inspire kids to stay in school and go to college to become the leaders of tomorrow, he advocates for the importance and power of a good education through the i.am angel Foundation. The Foundation’s programmes include i.am STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths), i.am scholarship, and i.am college track. will.i.am says: “The STEM/STEAM skills needed to excel in the Fourth Industrial Revolution can equip every citizen with the ability to have a career, vs. a job, and to build companies and wealth that benefit entire communities vs. just a few people.”

Find out more about arts and culture at Davos here.

Author: Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship