The couple received the Ripple of Hope Award at a gala by the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR) organisation on Tuesday night.
The accolade honours leaders across government, business, advocacy, and entertainment, and the pair were recognised for their racial justice and mental health work.
During the ceremony the couple announced a new collaboration between their foundation The Archewell Foundation and the RFKHR – the Archewell Foundation Award for Gender Equity in Student Film.
“Our hope with this award is to inspire a new generation of leadership in the arts, where diverse up and coming talent have a platform to have their voices heard and their stories told,” the couple said in a statement.
“The values of RFK Foundation and The Archewell Foundation are aligned in our shared belief of courage over fear, and love over hate.
“Together we know that a ripple of hope can turn into a wave of change.”
It comes just hours before the launch of the couple’s tell-all Netflix documentary.
Meghan and Harry at the Ripple of Hope Awards
The Royal Family is bracing itself for bombshell revelations, with Harry speaking of a “hierarchy in the family”, a “dirty game”, and warning “we know the full truth” in a trailer for the show.
Elsewhere in the night the Duke joked he thought he was taking his wife on a “date night”.
Speaking onstage with RFKHR president Kerry Kennedy, Harry said: “I’ll be honest with you Kerry I just thought we were just going on a date night so I found it quite weird that we’re sharing the room with 1500 people.
“We don’t get out much these days because our kids are so small and young so, this is completely unexpected.”
To laughter from the audience he added: “But it’s nice to share date night with all of you, so thank you for coming.”
Meghan added: “Thank you for bringing me on this very special date night.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said.
The pair were recognised alongside other honourees including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to the RFKHR, honourees are those who have demonstrated “an unwavering commitment to social change and worked to protect and advance equity, justice, and human rights”.
Ms Kennedy, who is the daughter of Robert F Kennedy, said the Sussexes had been “incredibly brave” in addressing the issues of racial justice and mental illness.
“They’ve stood up, they’ve talked about racial justice and they’ve talked about mental illness in a way that was incredibly brave,” she told US outlet Extra on the event’s blue carpet.
“In this world in the wake of Covid there has been a massive spike… people around the globe have said they have anxiety and massive depression.
“For Meghan to get out there on national television and normalise discussion of mental health, at this point, is incredibly important and very brave.”
Members of the public gathered in the rain and took pictures and videos of the couple, as they arrived at the New York Hilton Midtown hotel on Tuesday.
Meghan wore a white, long-sleeved Louis Vuitton gown complete with a front slit and off-the-shoulder neckline, and the couple smiled at the crowds before posing on the event’s blue carpet.
The 2022 Ripple of Hope ceremony was hosted by Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin.
As well as Harry and Meghan, those recognised at the RFKHR event included Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of Siris, Brian Moynihan, chair of the board and chief executive of Bank of America, and Michael Polsky, founder and chief executive of Invenergy.
The ceremony also recognised NBA legend and civil rights icon Bill Russell with a posthumous award.