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Prince Harry delivers passionate speech on Princess Diana's birthday

The Duke of Sussex congratulated youngsters from his Los Angeles home

Danielle Stacey

The Duke of Sussex made an appearance at the first virtual Diana Award ceremony on what would have been his late mother's 59th birthday. Calling in from Los Angeles, Prince Harry, 35, surprised young changemakers with a congratulatory video message on behalf of him and his brother, Prince William.

The Duke gave a special mention to those who have been awarded for their work on issues related to race and injustice, including 24-year-old James Frater from London, who is tackling racial inequality by creating initiatives to increase the representation of black students at university.

READ: Meghan Markle has a special reason to celebrate during lockdown

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WATCH: Harry champions young people in surprise message

Harry said: "I am so incredibly proud to be part of these awards as they honour the legacy of my mother and bring out the very best in people like you. You are all doing such incredible work and at a time of great uncertainty, you have found the power and inspiration inside of you to make a positive mark on the world, and I love that The Diana Award is able to help you do it. I know that my mother has been an inspiration to many of you and I can assure you she would have been fighting your corner. Like many of you, she never took the easy route, she never took the popular one, or the comfortable one. But she stood for something. And she stood up for people who needed it.

"Right now, we're seeing situations around the world where division, isolation and anger are dominating as pain and trauma come to the surface. But I see the greatest hope in people like you and I'm confident about the world's future and its ability to heal because it is in your hands."

The Duke added: "My wife [Meghan] said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven't done enough to right the wrongs of the past. I too am sorry - sorry that we haven't got the world to a place you deserve it to be. Institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic. Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame  to create a better world for all of you."

Harry added: "I want you to know that we are committed to being part of the solution and to being part of the change that you are all leading. Now is the time and we know that you can do it."

Others name-checked by Harry included Demetri Addison, 19, from Jamaica, who is an advocate for young people in the face of rising youth violence; Jhemar Jonas, 17, who raises awareness about youth violence in south London; and Shanea Kerry Oldham, 19, from London, who developed the Operation Inspire mentoring programme for young boys that were excluded internally and founded Your Life More Life, which creates safe spaces for young people impacted by serious youth violence.

Former One Direction star Liam Payne and actors Miranda Hart, Dame Emma Thompson and Will Poulter were also among the celebrities to present awards at the virtual ceremony.

MORE: Princess Diana's sweetest mum moments with sons William and Harry – video

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William and Harry at the Diana Award's Legacy Awards in 2017

Tessy Ojo, Chief Executive, The Diana Award said: "I am truly blown away by all the young changemakers being celebrated today. They are tackling some of the world’s biggest issues, from mental health and climate change, access to education and sanitation, gender equality and racial injustice, a systemic issue that has recently come to the surface and I am truly proud of how these young people from across the globe are fighting hard to create a better world for us all. Beyond today’s celebration, we remained committed to working alongside these young people in rebuilding a society that works for all. We are proud of our over 20-year history of creating and championing change for young people."

The Diana Award was established in 1999 in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her belief that young people have the power to change the world. The charity, which runs anti-bullying and mentoring programmes, also rewards young people who carry out inspiring work. Each year thousands of young people are nominated by individuals and their communities to highlight these selfless acts.

The Diana Award 2020 virtual ceremony took place on 1 July 2020, you can view the full ceremony here: youtube.com/user/dianaaward

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