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Celebrities have 'duty' to help society: Carreras

By Bryony Jones for CNN

(CNN) -- Opera singer Jose Carreras says celebrities have a duty to use their popularity to give something back to society.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Carreras -- one of the Three Tenors -- said one of the perks of fame was its ability to help important things get done.

"It is our duty to use our popularity in order to give as much back to society as we receive from it," he said.

Carreras was honored with the WEF's Crystal Award recognizing those "who have used their art to improve the state of the world" for his work in the fight against leukaemia, a disease he has suffered from in the past.

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But he said all he had done was to "attempt to turn my gratitude into something tangible."

Carreras is the latest in a long line of celebrities to make their way to the Swiss ski resort for the annual forum.

Back in the event's glitzier heyday, before the sobering effects of the global financial crisis, stars such as Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas could frequently be spotted schmoozing with the world leaders and business moguls for whom Davos is a regular date in the diary.

Douglas, who received the Crystal Award five years ago, said then that he and others wanted to use their fame to raise awareness of issues close to their heart.

"The advantage that musicians and actors have is that people like to go to the movies and listen to music, so there's a comfort factor which allows a lot of people to feel that they know you, and it makes it easier to create a dialogue," he told reporters at the forum in 2006.

Angelina Jolie's appearance in Davos in 2005 and 2006 alongside partner Brad Pitt sparked much excitement.

To find a way to make my celebrity useful feels great
--Angelina Jolie

There in her capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR she said she felt compelled to get involved in human rights issues -- but admitted the work she did for good causes came with an element of self-gratification.

The Oscar-winning star told CNN's Richard Quest: "When I just had celebrity and I wasn't being useful with it and I was just making money and people were taking pictures, it felt very bad.

"It felt like a very shallow, empty world that I didn't feel right about. To find a way to make it useful feels great."

The event's paparazzi factor has dimmed in recent years, with invites only going to regular participants Bono, Peter Gabriel and writer Paulo Coehlo as the focus shifted away from human rights and poverty issues.

But as things begin to look up on the economic front, the coming years may see the stars once again coming out in Davos.