World Refugee Day, World Music Day & Legacies of Prince Sadruddin

“The refugee is a product of our errors, his predicament an indictment of our conduct as peoples and nations. He exists for our education and as a warning,”

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan,

UNHCR’s Refugees magazine, 2000

Saturday, June 20, 2020 marked World Refugee Day and World Music Day was celebrated the following day on June 21.

World Refugee Day is the time of year when we honor the courage, hope, and resilience of refugees – recognizing the hardships they have endured, the new lives they have created successfully, and the positive impact they have on our communities.

Along the same lines, the World Music Day is celebrated annually to promote peace and spread goodwill through music. The day is also popularly referred to as Fete de la Musique, French for Make Music Day or World Music Day.

One of the several legacies of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan was the “Golden Soul– music record for refugees initiative to raise funds for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It was an ingenious idea to combine the power and magic of music to accelerate call to action for the benefit of millions of refugees around the world.

Golden Soul, a long-playing record was sold for the benefit of the world’s refugees, receiving strong public support in Europe and other parts of the world, amplified by the participation by Head of State and other leading government officials and personalities in launching ceremonies.

Prince Charles was given the record
Prince Charles (left) admiring the record “Golden Soul” presented to him by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (right) during a ceremony. (Image credit: UNHCR Photos/ 1977)

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional threat to refugees and displaced people, who are among the most vulnerable and we need to ensure that they are remembered and included in our response and recovery efforts.

“The awkward truth about human deprivation is that it demeans those who permit or ignore it, more than it does those who are deprived.”

– Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

to the Third Committee of the General Assembly,

New York, USA, November 14th, 1977

Other legacy projects include the 1959-60 World Refugee Year stamps, issued by over 70 nations to promote the cause of the refugees; Alp Action – the International Corporate Fund for the Environment – launched in February 1990 at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Alp Action Programme endeavored to create universal respect for the Alps and alpine ecology among young people, the future stewards of these natural places. The program educated young people in the 7 alpine countries to take responsible action to stop pollution and halt the effects of climate change in their communities.


About Prince Sadruddin

“Prince Sadruddin was a statesman in the truest sense of the word. By focusing on the protection of refugees, he represented the moral and compassionate side of the international community.”

– Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General,

Geneva, Switzerland, June 24th, 2003

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s engagement with the UN system stretches 40 years, a major part of his lifetime. In 1963, he served as UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner for three years before becoming the agency’s youngest-ever High Commissioner in January 1966 at the age of 33, a post he held for 12 years becoming longest-serving High Commissioner,

Prince Sadruddin was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods including the 1971 Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people; the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania; and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, he played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.

Under his watch as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the mandate was extended beyond Europe to the third world. He strengthened the organization’s relations with African governments and helped to improve inter-agency cooperation within the United Nations to address problems of mass displacement in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

“He left an indelible print on UNHCR’s history leading the agency through some of the most challenging moments.

Sadruddin’s name became synonymous with UNHCR.”

– Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner



Limited copies of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography are available by emailing

Why do we mark International Days?

International days or World days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. They are a powerful advocacy tool.

Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions.

In addition to raising awareness, the UN takes advantage of these Days to advise States on actions to tackle the serious problems around which many of these dates revolve. An example is the resolution on the International Day of Biological Diversity, celebrated on 22 May, in which the Organization invites its Member States to sign and ratify the Cartagena Protocol on the protection of biological diversity.

How do we measure the impact of these Days?

The international observances (which also include weeks, years and decades) are some of the most visited pages on the UN website. Each international day has a dedicated website, available in the UN’s six official languages.

The International Days also serve as an indicator of the interest that a given subject attracts in each part of the world. To find this out, we look at the level of engagement that these commemorations receive in different regions and languages across the world. A case well worth highlighting is the International Day of Human Rights, which takes place on 10 December. This Day is observed all around the world with initiatives ranging from military and police officers swapping guns for running shoes in South Sudan, to a student competition in Russia, or a exhibit in Brazil. All in all, a multitude of individuals from all walks of life get involved, in a way or another, in the celebration of this special day.

Other most popular days include International Women’s Day (8 March), World Water Day (22 March) and the International Day of Peace (21 September).

You may also be interested to know that 21 March is the date of five different international days, and June is the month with the most international days.


Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali

Limited copies of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography are available by emailing

All related to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan


Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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