Virtual ceremony will feature a tribute to inspirational men and women around the globe demonstrating extraordinary courage, resilience, and ingenuity

WASHINGTON DC – October 9, 2020 – The Atlantic Council will pay tribute to the Unsung Heroes of 2020 at its annual Distinguished Leadership Awards on October 14, in recognition of inspirational individuals around the globe who have demonstrated extraordinary courage, resilience, and ingenuity amid a year of unprecedented challenges.

The Atlantic Council’s tribute to the “Unsung Heroes of 2020” is the culmination of a worldwide campaign to gather and share individual stories of everyday global citizens who have contributed impressively to their communities during this year of global pandemic, economic recession and the continuing fight for justice and equality. This tribute will be narrated by and feature a performance from critically acclaimed singer, actress and humanitarian Vanessa Williams.

The following individuals and organizations have been selected as the Atlantic Council’s 2020 Unsung Heroes: 

  • The Melville Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of disadvantaged Black and Hispanic children in the southern sector of Dallas via economic stability, food security, and academic excellence. View the video nomination here. 
  • The Azadi Project, a charity organization run by Priyali Sur, a Millennium Fellow at the Atlantic Council, that helps refugee women learn digital skills to facilitate their integration into the local labor force. During the pandemic, the Azadi Project has provided refugee women with COVID-19 hygiene kits. View the video nomination here.
  • Diana Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps, one of the largest and fastest growing grassroots movements mobilizing COVID-19 survivors to support the medical and scientific research community and help stem the tide of the pandemic. View the video nomination here.
  • The Kung Fu Nuns, a courageous group of Buddhist Drukpa nuns working to champion gender equality, environment sustainability, and compassionate social action. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the nuns have provided remote villages with critical access to food and supplies. View the video nomination here.
  • Maria Kolesnikova, a pro-democracy activist who became one of the many faces of the mass protests against Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko. Maria was jailed after she destroyed her passport to prevent authorities from deporting her to Ukraine. View the video nomination here.
  • Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit organization working to end chronic homelessness in Washington DC by providing meals, housing, and support services. Miriam’s Kitchen has continued to provide critical services to keep their communities safe and healthy during the pandemic. View the video nomination here.

In addition to the Unsung Heroes tribute, the virtual ceremony will honor Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund; Luis Alberto Moreno, outgoing president of the Inter-American Development Bank; and Lionel Richie, music icon, producer and philanthropist.

The Distinguished Leadership Awards is on-the-record and will be available via livestream. To register, or for further questions, please email