SOAS University of London

SOAS honours changemakers in the arts, health, human rights and higher education this year

19 July 2021

SOAS University of London is honouring leading figures in the arts, health advocacy, human rights and higher education this year.

The awardees are the multi award-winning musician and artist Angélique Kidjo; health, nutrition and welfare advocate for women and children H.R.H Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan; former UN Human Rights Chief H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and former leading figures at SOAS, Rt Hon Baroness Valerie Amos CH, Graça Machel DBE and Professor Graham Upton.

SOAS Director Professor Adam Habib said: “We are honoured to celebrate such pioneering figures at SOAS. From the arts to law, health and higher education, our awardees are significant changemakers and inspiring role models for our next generation of SOAS graduates.”

Angélique Kidjo
Angélique Kidjo
Angélique Kidjo. Credit: Fabrice Mabillot

The four-time Grammy award winning artist Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest in international music today. With 13 albums to her name, Angélique’s striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Angélique has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America. She has featured in the BBC’s list of Africa’s 50 most iconic figures, The Guardian Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World and the Forbes Magazine list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, and the 2018 German Sustainability Award. Angélique will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship.

Watch Angélique Kidjo's acceptance video. 

H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid 
H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid

H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid is an advocate for women’s, newborn, child and adolescent health, nutrition and wellbeing in humanitarian and fragile settings.

As UNHCR Patron for Maternal & Newborn Health, Special Advisor to the United Nations World Food Programme on Maternal & Child Health and Nutrition, and Co-Convener of the Roadmap to Accelerate Progress for Every Newborn Humanitarian Settings 2020-2025, Princess Sarah supports efforts to reduce maternal, child and newborn mortality and morbidity in populations affected by violence and conflict, and champions the health, wellbeing, empowerment and contribution of girls and women in fragile and humanitarian settings. Princess Sarah led Every Woman Every Child Everywhere (Everywhere), an unprecedented global multi-stakeholder movement to integrate humanitarian and fragile settings in the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, a roadmap adopted by the World Health Assembly to end all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents by 2030. HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan is also a SOAS alum and will be awarded a Doctor of Laws (LLD).

Watch H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid's acceptance video. 

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was the UN Human Rights Chief from 2014-2018. He was awarded the Stockholm prize for human rights in 2015 and the Tulip prize in 2018. He is currently the President and CEO of the International Peace Institute, and Perry World House Professor of the Practice of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania.  In 2019, he was appointed a member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace, justice and human rights, founded by Nelson Mandela.  He served twice as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations (in New York) and once as Jordan’s ambassador to the United States.  In January 2014, he served as president of the UN Security Council and earlier, in 2002, was elected the first president of the governing body of the International Criminal Court (ICC) -- guiding the court's growth in its first three years (9/2002-9/2005).  He also represented Jordan twice before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  From 1994-1996, he served as a UN civilian peacekeeper with UNPROFOR.  He holds degrees from Johns Hopkins and Cambridge universities, and will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship.

Wacth Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein's acceptance video. 

Baroness Valerie Amos
Baroness Valerie Amos

The Rt Hon Baroness Valerie Amos CH is currently Master of University College, Oxford and served as the ninth Director of SOAS, between 2015 and 2020. Before joining SOAS she served as the United Nations Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and was responsible for coordinating the global response to humanitarian crises around the world. In 2016 she was made a Companion of Honour for her services to the United Nations and emergency relief in conflict areas. She has consistently sustained an interest in, and a commitment to, development and social justice issues, equality and human rights. She was Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission between 1989 and 1994 and in 1997 entered the House of Lords. She served as a Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2001 and 2003, and joined the British Cabinet in 2003 initially as Secretary of State for International Development and then as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. Valerie will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

Watch Baroness Valerie Amos' acceptance video. 

Graça Machel
Graça Machel
Graça Machel. Credit: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Graça Machel is an African stateswoman whose decades long professional and public life is rooted in Mozambique’s struggle for self-rule and international advocacy for women and children’s rights. She is a former freedom fighter in Mozambique’s FRELIMO movement and that country’s first Minister of Education. In the years following her tenure in government, Graça produced a ground-breaking UNICEF report on the impact of armed conflict on children that changed the way the United Nations and member states respond in conflict zones. Since then, she has worked tirelessly in support of global health, child welfare, and women’s rights and empowerment. Graça works through several regional and international development bodies to accelerate social transformation. She is a founding member and Deputy Chair of The Elders, and played a key role in establishing Girls Not Brides, and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group. Graça was appointed as SOAS President in 2012 and delivered the keynote address to graduating students until 2019. She will be awarded a Doctor of Laws.

Watch Graça Machel's acceptance video.  

Professor Graham Upton
Professor Graham Upton

Professor Graham Upton served as Director of Transformation and Change and Interim Director of SOAS between April and December 2020. Born in Birmingham, he moved to, and was educated in, Australia, where he taught in secondary and special schools before moving back to the UK in 1972. He was Chair of the Board of Experience Oxfordshire from 2013 to 2017 having previously been Chair of the Board of Oxford Playhouse for eight years. In September 1997, he took on the role of Vice-Chancellor at Oxford Brookes University, which he held until August 2007. Professor Upton has also served as the Interim Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cumbria, Wrexham Glyndŵr University, Birmingham City University and Bangor University. He will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate. He will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate.

Watch Professor Graham Upton's acceptance video. 

Watch all the End of Year Celebrations 2021 acceptance videos on YouTube.