Iconic Filmmaker and Activist Richard Curtis Just Won the First-Ever Global Citizen of the Year Award
Curtis is a world-renowned film director — but he is also a crusader in the fight against poverty.
For over three decades, Richard Curtis has been an unstoppable force for good.
Alongside working as a Oscar-nominated screenwriter, producer, and director for some of the most beloved films — think Love Actually and Notting Hill — Curtis has also tirelessly worked to champion a just world without extreme poverty.
Through his organizations and campaigns Comic Relief, Sport Relief, Red Nose Day, and Project Everyone, Curtis has engaged millions of people in the fight against poverty. The collective work of these organizations has seen more than USD $1.5 billion go toward vulnerable people and communities in the United Kingdom, the United States, and across the world.
It’s for all these reasons and more that Curtis has been awarded the 2019 Global Citizen of the Year prize at the inaugural Global Citizen Prize award ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Dec. 13. The prize acknowledges an individual who has demonstrated outstanding impact on the goal of ending extreme poverty.
"I just want to say a few quite obvious words," Curtis told the crowd of Global Citizens at the Royal Albert Hall. "All people are equal. Children, all children, are as precious as yours and mine. All men and women are brothers and sisters."
"Around the world tonight, this one beautiful, threatened planet that we all live on, millions of our children, and our brothers, and our sisters, are suffering most terribly," he continued. "They are lonely, and hungry, and on the run, on our watch. And this is the time to do something about that."
Through recognizing outstanding leaders in the fight against poverty across five categories — Artist, Business Leader, World Leader, Global Citizen of the Year, and the Cisco Youth Leadership Award — the Global Citizen Prize ceremony honored the work of individuals from around the world.
The ceremony also featured remarkable musical performances from Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Raphael Saadiq, Sting, Stormzy, and special guests Chris Martin, H.E.R., and Jorja Smith.
The show is being broadcast around the world throughout December, and you can find out when and how to tune in and join the celebrations here.
Comic Relief is a major UK-based charity that works to use entertainment to create a positive difference. Founded by Curtis in 1985, the charity raises funds primarily through two fundraising events, Red Nose Day and Sport Relief.
Red Nose Day — which has become something of a British institution — encourages individuals across the UK to get together every two years and make donations to Comic Relief by buying red noses and fundraising at home, work, or school.
In much the same manner, Sport Relief asks Brits to fundraise through feats of walking, dancing, swimming, and other sporting activities.
This year, Red Nose Day and Sports Relief helped raise nearly £84 million (around USD $112 million) for Comic Relief — which the charity then uses to fund organizations and support millions of vulnerable people.
In his latest endeavor, Curtis launched Project Everyone in 2015. The non-profit works to create campaigns and short films, and put on unique events to “put the power of communication” behind the United Nations’ Global Goals.
By creating engaging multi-platform content, Project Everyone works to help everyone understand what the Global Goals are and why they are so important. If everyone is informed, Project Everyone believes people will be compelled to rally together and work collectively toward the creation of a fairer world.
“The Global Goals could be an amazingly important, effective, and practical to-do list for the planet,” Curtis wrote in a press release. “In working together to achieve them, we can be the first generation to end poverty, the most determined to fight injustice and inequality, and the last to live with the threat of climate change.”
The UN’s Global Goals are a set of 17 goals that work as a roadmap to end extreme poverty by 2030.
In Sept. 2015, all 193 UN-member countries agreed to achieve the Global Goals. Next year will mark the 10-year countdown to complete the mission, which includes Goal 1 to end poverty, Goal 2 for zero hunger, Goal 3 for good health and well-being for all, Goal 4 for universal quality education, and Goal 5 for gender equality.
Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved — down from 1.9 billion to 736 million in 2019. While the world has made incredible progress, the global poverty reduction rate is slowing, and, unless the world significantly ramps up efforts, the Goals will not be met by 2030.
The success of the Goals, Curtis believes, is absolutely achievable, as long as individuals, governments, big business, and the UN urgently work to prioritize efforts.
“Next year it’ll be 2020, a third of the way to 2030. If we wait, the window of opportunity will begin to fade,” Curtis said in a keynote speech at the UN’s high-level political forum earlier this year. “An acceptance will creep into people’s minds that we’re not going to make it. That it was a nice opportunity we missed. That we settled for bronze when we could have won gold.”
“2020 is a historic year,” he added. “Right now is the precise moment to grab this unique opportunity.”
To learn more about the Global Citizen Prize, including how you can tune in wherever you are to watch the entirety of Curtis' acceptance speech, hear from all of the incredible winning activists, enjoy incredible musical performances, and more, please click here.
Proud partners of the Global Citizen Prize include Comcast NBCUniversal, MSNBC, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, Citi, Live Nation, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Motsepe Foundation.