Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a LUI Che Woo Prize laureate, has asked donors to his foundation to forgo their gifts this year and instead to contribute to efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the biggest crises to hit humankind in generations.

    "This virus and its impact must be addressed at every level of government and society,” he wrote in a March message. “Each of us is gratified at the examples of volunteers and community organisations that have quickly mobilised to help those in need."

    Private companies, individuals and governments are coming together to work with unprecedented speed to find a vaccine, or cure, for the virus, which has affected millions worldwide.

    However, it’s not the first calamity that humankind has had to address and won’t be the last. From climate change, to food shortages to new medical emergencies, there are a wide range of potential threats that humanity needs to overcome and a talented pool of individuals and organisations willing to take the risk to solve them.

    In 2020, that challenge is undoubtedly to bring the pandemic under control and to study ways to alleviate the extreme economic hardships that are likely to result from the lockdowns. The World Bank, for example, has warned that the crisis could lead to more than 60 million people being pushed into extreme poverty.

    It’s during such challenging times as this that the need for what the LUI Che Woo Prize advocates is greater than ever. The three-part award celebrates the efforts of those seeking to create a balance between man and the natural world to ensure the planet will be available to future generations. It also rewards individuals and organisations that embody the resilience of the human spirit and positive energy, as well as those striving to create harmony and improve lives by eradicating social challenges.

    Welfare Betterment Prize Laureate: Fighting fires head-on

    When it comes to Covid-19, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) will once again be on the frontline leading efforts to fight the pandemic and tackle the crisis head on.

    The independent medical and humanitarian organisation works in 70 different countries around the world, but was recognised by the prize for its work on epidemics and infectious diseases, in particular the 2010 outbreak of cholera in Haiti and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014.

    The organisation dared to challenge governments for their slow response to the epidemic and its staff rushed in, putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives and provide assistance in some of the most troubled areas of the world.

    MSF President Dr Joanne Liu warned that during a transnational crisis, it’s not enough to sit back and hope the affected nations will be successful in tackling the problem, or that the virus will dwindle out.

    The world is increasingly interconnected, whether it be through global trade and supply chains, or through the free movement of people. Therefore, a calamity affecting one part of the planet will ultimately have a knock-on effect across the globe.

    “To put out the fires we must run into a burning building,” she said, reminding world leaders of the need for global cooperation.

    During the Covid-19 outbreak, the organisation has spoken out for the need to protect the most vulnerable, warning the crisis is exacerbated by poor living conditions and is particularly acute in the world’s refugee camps. In the overcrowded facilities, it’s almost impossible to implement the social distancing measures recommended to fight the disease.

    Positive Energy Prize Laureate: Indomitable spirit

    Another of the many repercussions stemming from Covid-19 is the impact on mental health from the months of isolation and anxiety. An online study of 662 adults in 25 states across India, that was published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, indicated that 80 percent of people were preoccupied by thoughts of the disease, with the same amount saying they feel the need for support.

    The pandemic is testing the resilience of the human spirit to the maximum and the need for positivity in difficult times. For inspiration as to how we can persevere and overcome adversity, there is no better example than International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The sporting body has nurtured athletes and demonstrated how it’s possible to tap inner strength to overcome personal limitations and aspire to sporting excellence.

    The games began in Rome in 1960 and have grown in popularity to reach more than 4 billion viewers at the last event in Rio in 2016. They have been lauded for their success in reducing prejudice and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities and are recognised as the world’s number one sporting event for driving social inclusion, transforming attitudes and the lives of millions of people around the world.

    “The Paralympics is bigger than sport, it’s that we’re watching the triumph of the human spirit,” said Sir Philip Craven, MBE, former President, IPC.

    Sustainability Prize Laureate: Tackling climate change

    Although this year, Covid-19 is dominating the headlines, there may be an even greater catastrophe waiting in line if we don’t take action on climate change.

    The warming is leading to rising sea levels and more intense weather events, causing severe droughts in some areas and floods in others and making large areas no longer suitable for agricultural production.

    Xie Zhen-hua believes that climate change is a common challenge for the survival and development of all mankind. He led China’s efforts in promoting action to reduce pollution and protect the environment and was crucial to the success of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, bringing together the international community to fight a common cause.

    Within China’s climate community, Xie is known for a personal commitment to the climate change issue that goes far beyond the negotiating table. He has overseen efforts to protect the environment, conserve precious natural resources and to save energy. He also set up China’s national carbon trading scheme, which was launched in 2017 and has become the biggest market globally.

    On the world stage Xie has headed the Chinese delegation to the UN Climate Conferences since 2007 and has helped to promote international cooperation on emission reductions and green and low-carbon development between China and 30 other countries, regions and international organisations. He has also helped train 1,000 officials and technicians working in the field of climate change for 100 developing countries.

    "Climate change is critical to the survival and development of all mankind," he said, highlighting that only a joint effort will all mankind be able to combat this.

    Xie pledged to donate the HK$ 20 million (US$ 2.56 million) cash award of the LUI Che Woo Prize to his alma mater Tsinghua University. His generous gift is for cultivating the next generation of climate leaders in China.

    Civilisation has advanced in all spheres due to collaborative efforts in the spirit of the greater good. These achievements need to be recognised and rewarded.

    The LUI Che Woo Prize differs from some of the other major philanthropic donations in its broad scope. It’s not restricted to academics and scientists working on global problems, but also recognises outstanding achievements to human civilisation.

    When launching the endowment in 2015, Dr Lui Che-woo described the award as “a prize for people irrespective of their race, nationality, geography, culture or religion”.

    He is a firm believer in giving back to the community from which he benefited and inspiring others to build a better world together.

    He said: “In the face of a challenging global economic and geopolitical environment, my wish is to deliver well-being to people and to create the conditions where goodness, beauty and harmony can thrive. I am doing this by launching a prize that embraces and promotes these values.”

    The annual LUI Che Woo Prize was launched in 2016 by philanthropist Dr Lui Che-woo. It’s one of the world’s largest philanthropic donations, granting HK$20million (approx.US$2.56 million) each in cash to three laureates chosen for excellence in one of three fields; sustainable development, improving the welfare of mankind and the promotion of positive life attitudes and energy.