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Prince William is trying to reinvent the royal role

There was a moment that fell under the radar while the Prince of Wales was in Singapore this week.

All eyes were on Tuesday’s glitzy award ceremony for his ambitious $50 million Earthshot Prize, which was held in Asia for the first time.

There, Prince William and a star-studded cast announced this year’s cohort of winner, but earlier in the week, the heir to the throne achieved his own, quieter, victory.

The Windsors overload their diaries when overseas, so it was no surprise that alongside his eco-initiative commitments, the 41-year-old prince filled his four days in-country with related engagements. One of those was his attendance at the first major overseas summit of his United for Wildlife project.

Set up by William and his Royal Foundation in 2014, the initiative assembles leading figures from conservation, government and law enforcement to halt the poaching of animals and prevent the illegal trade of their parts.

At that event on Monday, William delivered a passionate speech, emphasizing the far-reaching repercussions of the slaughter and sale of the world’s most endangered animals, and revealed a landmark global partnership to end the practice.

“I am delighted to announce today that United for Wildlife has led the creation of a world-first International Statement of Principles, agreed by governments to prevent, detect, and deter the financial activity that sustains the illegal wildlife trade,” the prince told delegates.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Singapore are some of the signatories that have committed to regular cooperation. The hope is that the collective support will lead to more seizures and arrests.

William also announced a joint effort with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Interpol, in which the organizations will work together to disrupt the global criminal network.

One of the questions we’re often asked is about the real-world return from all the speeches, walkabouts and waving the royal family does. William’s announcements are one example of their convening power.

“I’m incredibly proud that our network has supported over 600 investigations, nearly 300 seizures of illegal wildlife products, and the training of over 110,000 people,” William said at the United for Wildlife Global Summit.

Having this kind of quantifiable impact is at the core of William’s vision for his time as Prince of Wales.

Careful not to dismiss the work done by the rest of his family, who “have been very much spotlighting brilliantly,” the prince told the traveling British press that he wants “to go a step further.”

“I want to actually bring change and bring people to the table who can do the change if I can’t,” he said.

William explained that he didn’t want to dilute his impact by being spread too thin across numerous social causes. Instead, he’s been mulling over how he can go “deeper” and “show my intent more.”

The late Queen Elizabeth II put charity at the heart of her role. When Charles was Prince of Wales, he pushed boundaries with his activism and now, as King, he is engaging with subjects avoided by his ancestors. For William, rather than just highlighting issues, he is drilling down into causes he has backed for years and is now trying to deliver measurable change for them.

It’s a gamble when royals get involved in potentially divisive issues rather than just casting a spotlight on them. They can find themselves under fire from the court of public opinion or risk inching into the political space. But in a world of shifting attitudes, William’s action-based approach could make him the more effectual royal that critics have been calling for.

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