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Here Are the Biggest Moments From the TIME100 Impact Awards and Gala in Dubai

7 minute read

To walk through Dubai’s Museum of the Future, an elliptical behemoth inscribed with Arabic calligraphy set on the edge of the city’s glittering financial district, is to get a glimpse of what the future could look like. For attendees of the second annual TIME100 Impact Awards and Gala, who gathered on the museum’s cavernous seventh floor on Sunday evening, it was an opportunity to recognize those who are helping shape it.

The event, which brought together more than 200 people from the realms of business, government, entertainment, and sport, was dedicated to recognizing five global changemakers who have gone above and beyond to move their industries, and the world, forward. The evening’s honorees included Farwiza Farhan, whose conservation efforts to protect rainforests in her native Indonesia have inspired an environmental movement; filmmaker Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose philanthropy is helping develop the next generation of leaders; Graça Machel, who served as Mozambique’s first female cabinet minister and has dedicated her life to advocacy for women and children; and Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, dubbed the ultimate “power couple” by former TIME100 Impact Award honoree will.i.am, who have used their respective platforms to advance the fight against food insecurity and climate change.

Here are some of the biggest moments from the TIME100 Impact Awards Gala and Summit.

Guests and honorees take to the red carpet

The breadth of global diversity of those in attendance on Sunday was on full display on the red carpet, with guests including South Korean politician and political activist ​​Park Ji-hyun, former Arsenal and French national soccer player Bacary Sagna,TIME Women of the Year honoree Amanda Nguyen, and TIME100 Impact Award honorees Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba.

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Ji-hyun ParkRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

An overarching theme raised by many of the influential guests was how they envisage building a better world (with greater empathy, according to Nguyen). They also gave insights into who their dream dinner companion would be (it would be Joe Biden for Park), who has had the greatest impact on their lives over the past year (the Elbas picked each other; “I am so corny!” Dhowre Elba said), and how to cut through the noise of social media to reach people—even if it means forsaking social media altogether.

“I don’t really like social media,” said artist and innovator will.i.am. “To say social media and noise—it’s just the same thing.”

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
will.i.amRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

A moment of silence for Turkey and Syria

While the evening was in itself a celebration of the remarkable achievements of its honorees, it was set against a backdrop of recent and ongoing crises, the likes of which did not escape the notice of those in attendance. In her opening remarks, Lebanese journalist and television presenter Raya Abirached led a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the deadly earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, a topic that featured in remarks throughout the evening with appeals to help.

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Raya AbirachedRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

“We all know what’s happening, we keep them in our prayers,” Dhowre Elba told attendees during her acceptance speech. “There are many ways to help, so please do what you can.”

“May Allah grant them Jannah,” she said of the tens of thousands who were killed in the earthquake’s aftermath, referencing the Islamic concept of heaven or paradise.

Farwiza Farhan on protecting our rainforests

“I’ll be honest, I have huge imposter syndrome right about now,” Farwiza Farhan told attendees. Growing up amid the rainforests of Indonesia’s western Aceh province, she never imagined that she would one day end up on the cover of TIME for her efforts to protect it. But as she sees it, the honor is not hers alone, nor is the fight to protect the Leuser Ecosystem—the only place on Earth where the critically-endangered tiger, elephant, rhino, and orangutan roam together in the wild—finished.

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Farwiza FarhanRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

“We have campaigned for stronger protection of this landscape, won lawsuits, restored forests, empowered communities, and launched the very first women-led ranger team in the region,” said Farhan, an effort that she said belongs not just to her, but to all those who have dedicated their lives to protecting the Leuser Ecosystem and supporting their campaigns. “So let’s celebrate tonight and pick up the fight again tomorrow.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg on what drives his philanthropy

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former head of Walt Disney Studios and DreamWorks Animation, spoke about the principle that drives his philanthropy which includes contributions to higher education, the arts, environmental protection and civil rights as well as efforts to address the homeless crisis. He says he learned about the principals of philanthropy from Kirk Douglas.

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Jeffrey KatzenbergRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

“He said, ‘You have not learned how to live until you have learned how to give,” Katzenberg said of his old friend and mentor. “This philosophy was driven and has continued to drive my philanthropy. And as Kurt understood so well, it has enriched my life beyond measure.”

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba on using their voices to amplify others

Being honored at a time when the world feels as though it’s moving from crisis to crisis can feel “conflicting,” the Canadian actor and model Sabrina Dhowre Elba admitted during her acceptance speech alongside her fellow honoree and husband, the English actor Idris Elba. “But it’s moments like this that help me feel like the impact of the work that we do is being felt.”

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Idris Elba, Sabrina Dhowre ElbaRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

As a couple, the Elbas are well aware of the influence and reach that they can have. That’s why both of them have committed to using their platforms to amplify those who do not have one, particularly those facing food insecurity and climate change. “The voice that I was given is so powerful when I use it to help those that don’t have one,” said Elba. But as he sees it, you don’t need to have a massive platform in order to make an impact.

“I think people get discouraged because they think they need to have a certain qualification to have an opinion, and you don’t,” Elba shared earlier on the red carpet. “You just have to be in the room and you have to be able to say what you feel passionate about, what you stand for. I think everyone can take a very small step towards having a voice.”

Graça Machel on the work that remains to be done

While the evening served as a celebration of all the great work that has been achieved, Graça Machel reminded everyone in the room of all that has yet to be achieved.

TIME100 Impact Awards & Gala - Dubai
Graça MachelRowben Lantion/BFA.com—BFA

“There are millions of girls around the world—particularly ones blessed with my skin color—who have bigger ambitions of impact, much bigger than my own, and whose promise of future is brighter than what we celebrate today,” she told attendees. “Yes, we must celebrate our successes, but let us make no mistake that the important work of social transformation remains largely to be done and it is unfinished. There is much more impact yet to be made.”

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Write to Yasmeen Serhan at yasmeen.serhan@time.com