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Why This Year’s Global Citizen Festival in Central Park Matters More Than Ever

Global Citizen

It’s official: The number of people living on less than $1.90 (USD) a day has halved since 1990 — in other words, we are closer than we have ever been to a world without extreme poverty. And none of this would have been possible without foreign assistance. Assistance that most certainly includes that which has come from the US — the single biggest national donor of aid.

Yet today, we risk not only slowing but reversing this progress, thanks to the increasingly isolationist rhetoric that is creeping across the globe. Many countries — including the United States, whose president is advocating for 32% cuts to the international affairs budget in 2018 — are not delivering on their promises, and are instead retreating from the world, rather than leading it.

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That’s why we will be mobilizing millions of Global Citizens to remind leaders as they gather for the UN General Assembly in September, of the worldwide agreement they signed onto just two years ago at the very same meeting— in which they committed to see an end to extreme poverty by 2030. It is more vital than ever that we make a stand. For Freedom. For Justice. For All.

For freedom, because the United Nations itself — with American leadership — was founded on the basic premise that no one should be imprisoned by poverty. All are entitled to freedom from want of life’s basic necessities.

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For justice, because we believe that foreign aid, alongside free and fair trade in the economy, can give the world’s poorest people the resources and opportunities they need to lift themselves out of poverty. That is economic justice.

For all, because the Global Goals are a commitment for the entire planet, and unless everyone plays their part — including the wealthiest countries like America — we will never see a world where every single global citizen is given what they need to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Global Citizens will be taking action as a way to earn a free ticket to the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 23, where Steve Wonder, The Killers, Green Day, The Lumineers, The Chainsmokers, and many more music artists will perform.

Specifically, Global Citizen will be demanding that leaders deliver on the following issues.

1. US FOREIGN AID

Why this matters: Americans should feel proud that for decades America has lived up to its Cold War epithet of “Leader of the Free World,” promoting freedom and justice not simply for its own citizens but for those outside its borders. The generosity of the US has meant millions of people are alive today who otherwise would not be. From the 12 million who received life saving HIV treatment via the President George W. Bush health initiative PEPFAR, to the 18 million children who received vital nutrition assistance in some of the world’s poorest countries thanks to the Feed the Future initiative. Yet if President Trump’s proposed cuts of 32% of the entire international affairs budget are approved by Congress, it will be virtually impossible to end extreme poverty by 2030.

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What needs to happen: Global Citizen is calling on Congress to protect $60 billion in funding for the international affairs budget in 2018.

2. EDUCATION

Why this matters: Around the world today, 264 million children are currently going without an education, and thus likely heading toward an even tougher future. This is an education crisis. Or as UN Special Envoy for education Gordon Brown termed it, “the civil rights struggle of our generation.”

What needs to happen: Global Citizen will be calling on leaders to tackle a key barrier toward girls education specifically: the provision of adequate menstrual hygiene. And they will ask heads of the world’s richest countries to announce new commitments to support two key multilateral efforts, who if fully funded could fix the education crisis. The Global Partnership for Education whose work could secure education of children in 89 of the world’s poorest countries if their funding needs are met, and the Education Cannot Wait fund to ensure all children, particularly girls and those affected by conflict and crisis, are in school and learning.

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3. GENDER EQUALITY

Why this matters: The forces holding millions of girls and women back across the globe are many and complicated. Yet, if we tackle the barriers that currently prevent them from such fundamental necessities as having agency over their sexual and reproductive health, fully engaging in the economy and protection in the eyes of the law, then we will go a long way to securing a brighter future for them, their communities and their families.

What needs to happen:

To Level the Law: In over 90% of countries worldwide, women’s opportunities are explicitly limited by gender-based legal differences - including laws that restrict their ability to own property, open a bank account or have legal protection from abusive practices like child marriage and marital rape. Global Citizens will be taking action to secure commitments from key countries in the Commonwealth — a network of 52 countries representing 2.4 billion people — to rectify these devastating discrepancies in their legal codes. We will also demand justice for the genocide of the Yazidi people perpetrated by ISIS. Today, 3,000 Yazidi women and children are still estimated to be held in captivity.

Women’s Health Services: Earlier this year, the president of United States announced the nation was to reinstate and expand the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the “Global Gag Rule.” Which means that the US would no longer fund organizations that provide or even give information on abortions, cutting off vital health services to women all over the world. This has the potential to impact up to $8.8 billion in US foreign assistance to global health - including services and information regarding contraceptives and family planning, maternal health visits, cervical cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Which is why She Decides was launched - a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every girl and woman - especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Already, more than 50 countries have supported with over $350M. But more is needed. We will be campaigning for countries like South Korea, Japan and Spain to step up for women’s health and support She Decides.

Female Economic Empowerment: Agency over your own life is impossible without control over your resources. Together with WEConnect International, Global Citizen is campaigning to redress the current imbalance among  women-owned businesses who currently earn less than 1% of the money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments, by urging the private sector to commit to source from women suppliers in developing countries.

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4. GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY IN AN INCREASINGLY CONNECTED WORLD

Why this matters: In our increasingly connected and globalised world of cheap international travel, experts warn that the next pandemic is just around the corner. And as the devastating consequences of the latest Ebola outbreak demonstrated, the globe is currently ill prepared for it.

What needs to happen:

Pandemic Preparedness: The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was established earlier this year, to ramp up research into new vaccines to prevent future epidemics. Global Citizen will be calling on leaders to step up and help CEPI meet its funding target of $500 million so it can achieve the progress it needs to, to protect us all.

Protection from polio: Polio is 99.9% eradicated. Yet, in our globalized world, polio anywhere is a risk to children everywhere. Global Citizen will be calling on donor countries to make a financial commitment to get rid of this paralyzing virus and provide invaluable proof to the world that eradication is possible.

Maternal Health: Global Citizens will be campaigning to protect maternal and child health in Uganda and throughout Africa by calling on governments, as signatories to the 2001 Abuja Declaration, to allocate 15% of their annual budget toward health — a promise that must become a reality if we are to improve the health of mothers and children.

5. WATER AND SANITATION

Why this matters: Safe water and sanitation remains one of the most neglected of all the Sustainable Development Goals — which is why we live in a world where a third of the world’s population lack a basic toilet and 844 million people lack a basic water service.  

What needs to happen: Global Citizen will be campaigning to ensure that not only donor governments but the private sector, NGOs and emerging countries take on the responsibility to fix it. Critical issues that contribute to the crisis will take precedence, such as ending the practice of open defecation, which currently 892 million people in the world do. Another focus of Global Citizens’ demands will be the provision of a critical waste treatment system called fecal sludge management, to help prevent the deaths of 1,400 children every day due to exposure to water and land resources contaminated by human fecal matter.

6. FOOD AND HUNGER

Why this matters: Right now according to the UN, 20 million people are currently on the brink of starvation in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. According to the UN $4.9 billion in funding is needed to end the famine crisis. Not only are leaders failing to save the millions at risk right this minute, but they are almost entirely overlooking the many billions at risk in the future if they fail to contribute aid toward long term development.

What needs to happen: Firstly Global Citizen will be calling on governments and the private sector to respond to the famine crisis. Yet we will also be demanding that leaders provide an improved food system via more efficient agriculture that increases the level of nutrition people receive so they can to do more than just survive today, and lead healthy, productive lives, well into the future.

The New York City festival comes after events held in Hamburg in July and Mumbai, India , and Montreal, Canada , in 2016. Since the start of the Global Citizen Festival in 2012, 10 million actions set to affect 1 billion lives by 2030.

Steve Wonder. The Killers. Green Day. The Lumineers. The Chainsmokers — these artists and more will be playing to a crowd of some 60,000 Global Citizens in New York City’s Central Park on Sept. 23 as a declaration of solidarity with the most vulnerable people on the planet. We hope that world leaders stand up in solidarity too. One thing is for certain: Global Citizens will keep the pressure on to make sure that they do. For Freedom. For Justice. For All.