Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans on Hozier’s ‘Cry Power’ Podcast: ‘It’s Been a Lifelong Journey’
Listen to Hozier and Hugh Evans talk about the inspiration behind the Global Citizen movement.
From Bono to Mavis Staples, every guest Hozier has spoken to on the Cry Power podcast has recalled a moment in their lives that crystallised their commitment to social justice.
For Annie Lennox, it was watching her parents fighting facism “at the factory gates” in Aberdeen. Marcus Mumford’s breakthrough came in Jerusalem after visiting Zaatari refugee camp, while Nick Grono changed careers after working in legal aid as a corporate lawyer.
Hugh Evans — CEO and co-founder of Global Citizen — feels like his entire life has been intertwined with activism. But he first felt compelled to take action while at secondary school in Melbourne, Australia.
“For me it’s been a lifelong journey,” Evans tells Hozier on the sixth episode of the Cry Power podcast, created in partnership with Global Citizen. “It started when I was 12 years old.”
Evan’s school was running a fundraising competition for World Vision, an organisation that supports vulnerable children in 100 countries across the world. He vividly remembers throwing himself into the challenge — and his school ended up raising more money than any school in Australia.
The prize was a trip to Manila in the Philippines to see their work up close. He stayed in the Smoky Mountains — a community built on a landfill dump — with another 14-year-old boy called Sonny Boy. They slept in the same room as Sonny Boy’s whole family, cockroaches and the smell of rubbish everywhere, while Evans lay awake considering the brutal inequality of their wildly contrasted lives.That night would change the course of his life forever.
From there, Evans convinced his mother to let him go to school in northern India. He went on to work on the Make Poverty History campaign and study at the University of Cambridge — before the United Nations helped him set up the first incarnation of Global Citizen as the Global Poverty Project in London. Soon, he had set up a headquarters in New York too.
It’s a joy to announce I’ve been working with @GlblCtzn on a new podcast, talking to artists & activists about how we can change the world. I’m really proud of it. Episode 1 of #CryPower is out now with my friend @AnnieLennox.— Hozier (@Hozier) October 1, 2019
🖤Listen + subscribe: https://t.co/QV06yOu62zpic.twitter.com/zdi6lwQhyN
“We started with this big dream — we were literally working out of a broom closet on Lafayette Street. No money, a true start up,” Evans tells Hozier. His idea: a concert that could unite the world to end extreme poverty. But there was a twist. “You couldn’t buy a ticket — you had to earn your way in through your social actions. That’s how Global Citizen started.”
The first Global Citizen Festival took over Central Park, New York City, on Sept. 29, 2012. It almost didn’t happen — six weeks before the show, they were $1.5 million short of funding and without a confirmed headliner. But an 11th hour cheque from Sumner Redstone and a phone call from Neil Young in Hawaii a few hours apart saved the day.
Young was joined by the Foo Fighters and 60,000 Global Citizens who were all there after taking action to end extreme poverty. Onstage at that festival, $1.3 billion was committed by world leaders, businesses, and charities — and the next day, Stevie Wonder was already booked for the following year. The festival has returned to Central Park annually ever since.
“It’s incredible... just an unthinkably ambitious event — and also quite a radical one,” Hozier says. “This is all out of the goodness of people’s hearts and their will to do something meaningful.”
“You’re exactly right,” Evans replies. “Everything that has happened since has been based on the goodness of people’s hearts.”
Since then, the festival has been hosted on three further continents: in India, South Africa, and Germany — with further shows in the UK, Canada, Australia, and more. The likes of Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, and Pharrell Williams have all played the festival multiple times — often appearing for collaborations together onstage.
And in total, Global Citizens have taken over 23.7 million actions — from signing petitions to sending tweets and emails — that have led to $48.4 billion committed to end extreme poverty by 2030. Those commitments have already affected the lives of 880 million people with the $22 billion that has already been disbursed. But with 10 years to go, there’s still a $350 billion a year financing gap to achieve the UN’s Global Goals — 17 goals that work together to end extreme poverty. That means 2020 needs to be our biggest year ever to get the world back on track.
“I’m convinced that at key moments in history, humanity has come together to achieve extraordinary things,” Evans says. “It happened back in 1985 with Live Aid, and it happened again in 2005 with Live 8 — and we’ve been working with the Deputy-Secretary General of the UN, Amina Mohammed, to see that 2020 could be our generation’s moment.”
“So we’re planning the most ambitious campaign Global Citizen has ever embarked upon in support of the Sustainable Development Goals — and the campaign is called Global Goal Live,” he continues. “We’re going to take the festival to six events all around the world on five continents. Our goal is to make it the largest cause broadcast event in history.”
Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Coldplay, and 25 other artists have already confirmed they'll be playing Global Goal Live next year. You can be the first to learn more about how you can get involved here. Global Citizen is working in partnership with Teneo, the global CEO advisory firm, on Global Goal Live.
“2020 has to be our year,” Evans adds. “I couldn’t be more passionate about it.”
The Cry Power podcast will return in January 2020. Head to GlobalCitizen.org/CryPower to check out the latest episodes, take action on the vital issues discussed in the podcast, and to #PowerTheMovement to end extreme poverty.