Prince Harry has surprised recipients of the Diana Award with a speech during the virtual ceremony, held on what would have been his mother’s 59th birthday.
Harry, who is living in Los Angeles with his wife Meghan, praised young people who are tackling racial inequality.
The issue is one the royal couple are likely to focus on as they shape their nonprofit organisation Archewell, which will be launched next year.
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.
“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.”
He said he and Meghan were committed to being part of the solution to institutional racism, which he said was “still endemic”.
He said: “My wife said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven’t done enough to right the wrongs of the past, and I too am sorry.
“Sorry that we haven’t got the world to the place it must be.”
He added: “Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame to create a better world for all of you.”
Harry, 35, highlighted some of the work of the award-winners on behalf of him and his brother Prince William, including that of 24-year-old James Frater from London.
As a young boy, Frater had 300 detentions and exclusions from school. But his life turned around after he was mentored by four teachers.
He is now training to be a doctor, and creates initiatives to increase the representation of black students at university.
He was one of 184 people – children and young adults – who got the Diana Award this year.
Harry also mentioned 23-year-old Nasra Ayub from Bristol who is an activist at Integrate UK, a youth-led charity that works towards gender and racial equality and cross-cultural cohesion.
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.
Marvel Mthembu, 22, from Johannesburg, was also recognised by the duke for setting up the international organisation Crushing The Barriers.
The awards recognise social action or humanitarian efforts. They were set up after the death of Princess Diana in 1997 when Harry was just 12 and his brother William was 15.
Earlier this year, Meghan gave a heartfelt speech to the graduating class of her former high school in California, in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
She said she was sorry the graduates were living in a world where racial inequality still existed.
The couple are planning their next moves in California as they prepare to launch Archewell. They have been volunteering in LA and having conversations with community leaders.
Harry’s speech came as Meghan’s guest-edited September issue of Vogue won an award for diversity.