After a year of experiencing a world where existing progress in gender equality policies has been threatened, Global Citizens took a stand and world leaders heard them. This year’s Global Citizen Festival saw some significant commitments made in the areas of gender equality and education and the overall pledge from all the commitments was the second highest achieved from any Global Citizen Festival. Just proving that world leaders are heeding the call of Global Citizens and taking action to end extreme poverty.

In the two months leading up to Global Citizen Week, Global Citizens took over 2.1 million actions to urge world leaders to take a stand against extreme poverty. This resulted in 17 commitments, 23 announcements, and 24 calls to action set to affect the lives of 254 million people. 

Top Commitments

Environment: Norway made a significant commitment to spend $200m USD to combat marine litter and microplastics over the next four years. 

Education: This year a total of $494.6m was committed towards various education initiatives on the Global Citizen stage. The Netherlands pledged around $116.8m USD (€100m EUR) to the Global Partnership for Education over three years.

Maternal Health: After announcing that they will host the Replenishment Fund for the Global Financial Facility (GFF) in November, Norway made a significant commitment of $360m to GFF, making it the largest donor to the GFF yet.

Level the Law: The Gambia is the smallest country in West Africa, but it is set to take the biggest step towards gender equality in the region, repealing and reforming all “sexist laws that seek to perpetuate the continuous suppression of women’s voices, promote gender based violence, act as barriers to equal and meaningful political participation, and hinder access to sexual and reproductive health.” 

Water and Sanitation: The Asian Development Bank made a significant budgetary commitment of $6.61b to water supply and sanitation investments.

Top Announcements

GCF18_AndrewCuomo_MengwenCaoForGlobalCitizen_004.jpgAndrew Cuomo presents at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018. Photo by Mengwen Cao for Global Citizen
Image: Mengwen Cao for Global Citizen

Ending cash bail: Governor Cuomo responded to 9,432 calls from Global Citizens and personally pledged that he would to lead the way to end the cash bail system in New York in 2018. He also pledged to end the racial bias pervasive in our justice system and issued a strong call to action for justice for all.

Procter & Gamble: "By the end of 2019, P&G's goal is to use at least 4,000 tons of recycled plastic — the equivalent of 12 fully loaded 747 jumbo jets — to make Head & Shoulders bottles. And it is our ambition to make all Head & Shoulders packaging 100% recyclable or reusable by 2030.”- Lisa Jennings, Global VP of Head & Shoulders, Procter & Gamble

Ireland: Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney reiterated Ireland’s pledge to increase their foreign aid budget to 0.7% to help end extreme poverty.



292,303 actions delivered 19 announcements and calls to action.

“As Global Citizens, you all are aware of these needs and have answered the call by taking action. Whether small or large, you’ve all proven to be catalysts for change, and that is no easy feat. Using emails, tweets, and petitions, you reached out to influencers and world leaders to build a bridge to a better a tomorrow. There is no time to delay, our moment to impact change starts now, and it starts with you!”- Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

GLOBAL COMPACT ON MIGRATION: Commissioner of International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena announced that through the Global Vision Urban Action program, New York City is the first city in the world to hold itself accountable for reporting against the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 by submitting a Voluntary Local Review to the United Nations. She also shared the work that New York City is doing in spearheading a coalition of 50 cities around the world to include local voices in the dialogue through the Global Compact on Migration. As a result of the actions of Global Citizen, she announced that Mayor of Clarkson Ted Terry will be signing on to participate in the Global Compact and she urged Global Citizens to continue to urge their local leaders to sign up to join the Global Compact and hold their mayors to account on the Voluntary Local Review.

“I am so thrilled that our messages reached all the way to Mayor Ted Terry from Clarkston, Georgia, who recently announced that he’s agreed to sign up and participate on the Global Compact on Migration and to participate in the Voluntary Local Review process!” - Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of International Affairs 

WHEN WE ALL VOTE: Global Citizen Week kicked off this year with a rally co-hosted with When We All Vote, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and the City of New York. The rally was attended by hundreds of people and Global Citizen Ambassador Rachel Brosnahan led a group of influential figures in urging attendees to use their voices. Brosnahan, along with Kal Penn and Robert De Niro, took the stage at the Global Citizen Festival to reiterate the power voting has to effect change.

GCF18_KalPennRachelBrosnahanRobertDeniro_MengwenCaoForGlobalCitizen081.jpgKal Penn, Rachel Brosnahan, and Robert De Niro present at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018.
Image: Mengwen Cao for Global Citizen

“Last weekend, I was at the Global Citizen rally in Central Parkand witnessed the power that comes when we bring our voices together to be the generation to create social change. Voting gives us the ability to tell our leaders to defend the issues that matter most to us, and also allows us to amplify the voices of those who are too often unheard.”- Rachel Brosnahan, Actor and Global Citizen Ambassador 

Michelle Obama addressed Global Citizens and urged them to use their voices to lift up their communities via a video message:

“And no matter what issues you are passionate about, no matter what causes you’re fighting for, there’s one thing all of you can do that I guarantee will make a difference. And that is electing leaders sharing your values, and will stand up for you in the halls of power.” - Michelle Obama


NEW YORK STATE BAIL REFORM: Governor Andrew Cuomo made a historic address to Global Citizens from the stage and personally pledged to lead the way to end the cash bail system in New York in 2018. He also pledged to end racial bias pervasive in our justice system and issued a strong call to action to achieve for justice for all.

LEGISLATION ON BAIL REFORM: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Vera Institute of Justice President Nick Turner announced their support for criminal justice reform. They called on Global Citizens to hold their leaders accountable for ending mass incarceration.

“Our criminal justice system often targets low income black and Latino communities in a manner inconsistent with the principle of equal protection under the law.” - Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman, NY-8th District 

PROSECUTORS PLEDGE: Prosecutors from across the US committed to stop the criminalization of poverty in their jurisdictions. 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez thanked Global Citizens for their 24,000 emails and calls and Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala pledged that she along with DA Eric Gonzalez and San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Salazar would continue to fight to end the criminalization of poverty.

“All of us on this stage, are with you in the fight to reduce extreme poverty because we know that poverty doesn’t just mean empty pockets, it creates begets injustice: in education, healthcare, and certainly in the criminal justice system.” - Tori Salazar, District Attorney, San Joaquin

MASS BAILOUT CALL-TO-ACTION: Activists Ismael Nazario, Nancy Sicardo, and President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Kerry Kennedy called for Global Citizens to join the Mass Bail Out — a collaborative effort to free hundreds of legally innocent women and fifty children jailed at Rikers Island within a matter of weeks. 

1043186978.jpg(L-R) Kerry Kennedy, Ismael Nazario, and Nancy Sicardo speak onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Be The Generation in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York City.
Image: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen

“The Mass Bail Out is starting with women and children, but we believe this freedom should be guaranteed to everyone. We stand alongside advocacy and grassroots organizations, public defenders, elected officials, direct service providers, labor and faith leaders, and directly impacted women and men who are working on the Mass Bail Out. And we need all of you to help us.”- Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


114,712 actions delivered 9 commitments and announcements valued at $196.5M. 60M lives set to be affected.

Mark Ruffalo and Rami Malek emphasised the devastating effects that marine pollution is having on our oceans.

“Every year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our oceans. That’s the equivalent of dumping one New York City garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.”- Mark Ruffalo, Actor and Activist

GCF18_MarkRuffalo_KholoodEidForGlobalCitizen_006.jpgRami Malek and Mark Ruffalo speak onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Be The Generation in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York, NY.
Image: Kholood Eid for Global Citizen

Lawyer and Activist Afroz Shah called on Global Citizens to do their part by pledging to stop plastic pollution:

“That’s why we’re asking you to take practical steps tonight to ensure plastic waste no longer ends up in the ocean. Join the movement that stops plastic pollution for good.”- Afroz Shah, Environmental Activist

PROCTER & GAMBLE committed to help stop the flow of plastics into the ocean and encouraged other corporate leaders to follow suit in creating solutions that see that plastics never become waste.

“By the end of 2019, our goal is to use at least four thousand tons of recycled plastic––the equivalent of twelve fully loaded 747 jumbo jets––to make Head & Shoulders bottles. And it is our ambition to make all Head & Shoulders packaging 100% recyclable or reusable by 2030.” - Lisa Jennings, Global VP of Head & Shoulders, Procter & Gamble

NORWAY: Prime Minister Erna Solberg addressed the audience via video message to emphasize Norway’s commitment to protecting our oceans, and called on other countries to come together in combating marine pollution.

“Countries are no longer oceans apart on this issue – we are in deep together — for cleaner and healthier oceans.”– Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Norway

“Plastic is now everywhere. From plastic bags in whales’ bellies to microparticles in what you eat and drink.”– Nikolai Astrup, Minister of International Development, Norway

Minister Astrup addressed the audience from the stage and promised that Norway will make a significant commitment to spend $200 million USD to combat marine litter and microplastics over the next four years. 

ANTIGUAAND BARBUDA: Tourism is the biggest contributor to Antigua and Barbuda’s economy. With a population of 90,000 people, data shows that 11 million plastic bags a year are being used. Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that on July 1, 2016, the nation became the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to ban single use plastic grocery bags. He called on Antigua and Barbuda to implement the prohibition of plastic utensils ahead of the January 2019 deadline. He also challenged airlines and cruise ships to limit the use of plastic and Styrofoam, and to further curtail their disposals in the country. 

GCF18_Speakers_MengwenCaoForGlobalCitizen097.jpgAntigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne and President of the United Nations General Assemby Fernandda Espinosa speak onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Be The Generation in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York City.
Image: Mengwen Cao for Global Citizen

“To save our oceans, I encourage fellow world leaders to pass similar bans, and I encourage all global citizens to eliminate the use of plastic bags altogether. The Ocean is our life, so Global Citizens, join us to Unplastic the Planet.” - Gaston Browne, Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda

As President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa announced her plan to address the issue of plastic pollution with world leaders this year.

“Today, much of our plastic consumption ends up in the fish we eat, and as plastic islands floating in the ocean – one which is currently larger than France! So, what do we do? We act, that’s what we do. As president, I will launch a global campaign against this and am asking you to join me. I need your support.” - H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa


289,291 actions delivered 5 commitments and 7 announcements valued at $495.3M. 31.5M lives set to be affected.


THE WILL & JADA SMITH FAMILY FOUNDATION: Will Smith, Hollywood’s favorite leading man and a high-profile advocate for children’s rights, bungee jumped from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon this week, raising funds for Education Cannot Wait (ECW). The global fund aims to generate additional resources to close the annual $8.5 billion USD gap to meet the needs of the 75 million children and young people whose education is disrupted by conflict and crisis. 

“For kids who have had their homes, their families, their lives taken away, all they want is to go back to school and feel some sort of normalcy. Their Education Cannot Wait and when we support this, we support humanity. We need to raise another $1.8 billion dollars by 2021 — funds that will take us beyond the next few years — because the average refugee is displaced for 17 years. We will be expanding the reach of our funding to address new and emerging crises and countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Sudan.”- Yasmine Sherif, Executive Director, Education Cannot Wait

GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATION (GPE): As Global Citizen’s Ambassador for GPE, Rihanna has been tweeting world leaders to bring their attention to the need to make contributions to the GPE replenishment fund.

DENMARK: Building on Will Smith’s contribution, Minister Tornaes committed $46 million to ECW, catapulting Denmark to the biggest donor. 

“We in Denmark have heard your calls, and we will be increasing our funding to Education Cannot Wait with a new pledge of $46m over 3 years. In addition, Denmark pledges to increase our annual commitment by 11.5% to an additional 8,400 euros. These commitments build on the commitment we made at the Global Partnership for Education financing conference earlier this year, where we pledged an additional $50m Danish krone on top of our approved annual contribution, taking our contribution to 1.2b Danish krone over 4 years.” - Ulla Tornaes, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark

NETHERLANDS: In response to 122,603 actions and Rihanna’s tweet at the Global Citizen Festival, Minister Kaag came through with her promise to support GPE by committing a total €100m.

“It was a gap in our policy. It was the omission in our engagement. As a long standing partner for women’s rights, girls’ rights. We’ve done a lot but education was the missing link.It’s back and through the GPE we are happy to commit €100m.” - Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation

IRELAND: Ireland stands as a country with one of the highest growth rates in Europe. It is core to the mission of Global Citizen to drive increases in foreign aid by the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world. Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney reiterated Ireland’s pledge to increase their foreign aid budget to 0.7%. 

"Tonight, I am committing that Ireland will increase our overall investment in education and spend a minimum of a quarter of a billion Euro over the next five years. We will do this as part of a sustained increase in Ireland’s development cooperation budget beginning in a fortnight’s time. And we will fulfill my Government’s commitment to reach the target of point seven percent by 2030." - Simon Coveney, Deputy Prime Minister, Ireland

STOP THE CUTS: Leading up to the Festival, Global Citizens took 57,319 actions to call on Senators endorse a robust US foreign affairs budget. For the past year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been working on legislation called the BUILD Act. This bill would help to reduce poverty in developing countries around the world. Senators Bob Corker, Barbara Lee, Cory Booker, Jeff Flake, and Chris Coons called on Global Citizens to reach out to their representatives and senators, and let them know that they support American investments to feed hungry people, to save lives, and to fight poverty around the world.

“We are here to support the bipartisan leadership on foreign aid. We need the rest of the world to see democracy working here at home...we are standing here united for foreign aid.”- Christopher Coons, Senator, Delaware

VERIZON: Millions of American students lack the access to technology and the skills they need to succeed in the digital world. Since 2012, Verizon has been working to help solve this problem through a program called Verizon Innovative Learning (VIL). The program provides free technology, free internet access, and hands-on learning experiences to help give under-resourced middle school students an education. As of this Fall, there are 100 VIL schools in the US and the company has committed $400 million to help schools in need, impacting more than a million students to date. In addition, Verizon announced that the program will be in 350 middle schools and will impact an additional 2 million students by 2021.


549,143 actions delivered 3 commitments and 1 announcement valued at $360 million. 6.75 million lives set to be affected.

HIV/ AIDS VACCINE UPDATE: In 2017, on the Global Citizen stage, Johnson & Johnson made a groundbreaking announcement for a breakthrough vaccine capable of preventing all strains of HIV. Leading the charge on testing this innovative vaccine are Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Paul Stoffels, and the President & CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, Dr. Glenda Gray.

GCF18_Speakers_MengwenCaoforGlobalCitizen008092.jpgL-R) Dr. Gray, Dr. Paul Stoffels and Danai Gurira speak onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Be The Generation in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York City.
Image: Mengwen Cao for Global Citizen

“I am here tonight to report that, together with our partners, we have fulfilled that pledge. Large scale testing of the HIV vaccine is now underway in five African countries, including South Africa.”– Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson

HEALTH FOR ALL: In order to mark the World Health Organization’s 70th anniversary, an Alliance between Global Citizen, Johnson & Johnson, the World Health Organization and countries such as Norway have mobilized grassroots citizens across the world in support of Health For All, a campaign to show political leaders that their constituents want to see them make the right choice — the choice that will lead people around the world on the path towards Health For All.

"Johnson & Johnson believes that essential health services should be within reach for every person – whether they live here in New York, or a village across the world. For decades, J&J has supported health workers with training and lifesaving products. Today, we are strengthening our commitment by joining the Health for All alliance to ensure that four-hundred and fifty-thousand frontline health workers get the training they need." – Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson

GLOBAL FINANCING FACILITY (GFF): This multi-stakeholder partnership is helping countries tackle the greatest health and nutrition issues affecting women, children and adolescents.

NORWAY: Having helped launch the GFF in 2015, The Minister of International Development, Norway made the most significant contribution to GFF yet. Minister Astrup committed an additional $360 million through to 2023. In November, Norway will be hosting the GFF Replenishment conference and called on governments to urgently join them to raise $2 billion in funds.

“Every year, more than 5 million women, children, and adolescents die from entirely preventable conditions. That’s like the whole population of my country – Norway – being wiped out, every single year. If something like that happened in Europe or the United States there would have been an outcry. But as it happens in the world’s poorest countries, it is allowed to go on in silence. The time has come to put an end to this silent loss of lives.”– Nikolai Astrup, Minister of International Development, Norway

NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES (NTDs): Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, showed his country’s support to fighting NTDs by committing to launch a project that will build capacity and facilitate a research project on NTDs between the universities of Luxembourg and Dakar (Senegal).

To eliminate all barriers that hold women back, Luxembourg will commit 100.000 additional EUR to tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases in Senegal.– Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Luxembourg


384,787 actions delivered 5 commitments and 6 announcements valued at $7.1 million. 116,000 lives set to be affected.


UN WOMEN: Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reaffirmed UN Women’s commitment to ensuring that by 2030 all laws treat women and men equally. 

“Our strategy on Equality in Law will support governments in their efforts to change discriminatory laws. But we also need you—women and men, boys and girls—to work together and call on leaders to level the law. Together we must create a world where the equal rights of women and girls are recognized as essential, rooted in law, and lived in reality.” – Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

THE GAMBIA: Minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou made a significant commitment to repeal or amend all sexist laws that suppress women’s voice, tolerate gender based violence, act as barriers to equal political participation, and hinder access to sexual and reproductive health. 

“Tonight, I renew our commitment to the protection and advancement of the rights of women and girls and reaffirm our belief that only through genuine and concerted efforts can we indeed level the law.”– Abubacarr Tambadou, Minister of Justice, The Gambia

COMCAST NBCUniversal: Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen announced that Comcast NBCUniversal is going to use the power of their portfolio and brand to amplify and expand the message of gender equality.

“We’re going beyond amplifying these messages. We’re taking action ourselves. I’d like to announce that Comcast/Universal will be rolling out a $5 million Public Service Announcement campaign to put the full strength of our megaphone behind the fight for gender equality.” – David Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and the Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast/ NBCUniversal

CHILD MARRIAGE: Global Citizens were also reminded that girls in America were still faced with laws that allow child marriage to occur. After recently legislating to ban child marriage, New Jersey Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz called on Pennsylvania to pass similar legislation.

LUXEMBOURG: Prime Minister Xavier Bettel pledged EUR€400k to support the new “Girls Not Brides” Initiative which is a global partnership of more than 1,000 civil society organisations from 90 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential. 


UNFPA SUPPLIES: The United Nations Population Fund's programme is dedicated to expanding access to family planning in 46 countries. It supports countries with the greatest needs by helping them to strengthen their supply chains so that women and adolescent girls can access a choice of contraceptives.

“We at UNFPA know that choice can change the world. She Is Equal, She Decides! Whether, when and with whom to start a family, and she should have access to the services and information she needs. UNFPA is the world’s largest supplier of donated contraceptives. Join us! We need more champions of choice. Please stand up, be counted, and support our UNFPA Supplies programme.”-  Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA

LUXEMBOURG: In response to over 44,000 letters, emails and tweets from around the world, Prime Minister Bettel confirmed that Luxembourg would continue their commitment to UNFPA Supplies.

“I am delighted to announce that Luxembourg will pledge €800.000 euros to UNFPA Supplies for 2019, a contribution fund that reaches millions of women and girls with family planning.– Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Luxembourg


In December the Global Citizen Festival will make its way to South Africa. South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, Jeffrey Radebe, and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu called upon Global Citizens to being taking action to support Mandela 100 in Johannesburg.

“In line with South Africa’s vision 2030 initiative of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Let us all begin to take the necessary action to make a difference with which to save the world, by ending poverty.” - Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa

Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, brought Global Ciitzens attention to the human capital crisis around the world. He announced that the launch of the Human Capital Index which will rank countries based on the quality of their investments in people.

GCF18_HCE_RachelBrosnahan_Moon_KholoodEidForGlobalCitizen_005.jpg(L-R) Rachel Brosnahan, Global Citizens CEO Hugh Evans, and Jim Yon Kim speak onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Festival: Be The Generation in Central Park on Sept. 29, 2018 in New York City.
Image: Jeenah Moon for Global Citizen

"The most important thing Global Citizens can do is hold leaders accountable, so they invest in the health and education of their people and give everyone a chance to reach their dreams."- Jim Kim, President, World Bank 


1 commitment valued at $18 million. 2.5 million lives set to be affected.

CEO of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah made a historic commitment with his first appearance via video. For the first time on a Global Citizen stage a country commited to take action on an issue affecting those in extreme poverty in their own country. 

“Afghanistan is committing to supplying 60,000 tons of wheat flour worth $18 million USD to the World Food Programme to support the most severe drought affected provinces in Afghanistan.”- Abdullah Abdullah, CEO, Afghanistan


6,400 actions delivered 1 commitment valued at $6.61 billion. 153 million lives set to be affected.

ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK: Fei Yu declared the Bank’s budgetary commitment to a water-secure Asia-Pacific region and closing the gap in water supply and sanitation services. 

“Our approved water supply and sanitation investments in the last 12 years reached a total of 12.88 billion which will benefit 299 million people through improved access to safe drinking water supply and improved sanitation. More people are expected to be served by 2020 with $6.61 billion additional investments in our pipeline from 2018 to 2020.”- Fei Yu, Deputy Representative, Asian Development Bank


Microsoft representative Jamal Edwards launched a petition for digital peace.

“Right now, we all have an opportunity to stop future assaults on our digital world, but our world leaders need a wakeup call––and that starts with you...It’s about stopping cyber warfare and telling our world leaders to take real policy action -- before it’s too late.” - Jamal Edwards, Microsoft Representative

The 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York will be presented for the very first time by Citi. MSNBC and Comcast NBCUniversal will air a live simulcast of the Festival on MSNBC and The Festival will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Twitter, presented by Johnson & Johnson. Proud partners of the 2018 Global Citizen Festival include Global Citizen’s global health partner and major partner Johnson & Johnson, and major partners P&G, CHIME FOR CHANGE Founded by Gucci, Verizon, House of Mandela, iHeartMedia, and NYC Parks. Associate partners include Microsoft, Great Big Story, and One Championship.



Demand Equity

You Took Action, World Leaders Listened: 2018 Festival Recap

By Neha Shah