This week we announced that Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys and John Mayer will headline the second annual Global Citizen Festival, September 28, on the Great Lawn of Central Park in New York. Presented by Cotton On Foundation -- which has helped build the best performing schools in Uganda, providing education and long lasting change to those most in need -- this year's Festival is about more than amazing music. It's about working together to end extreme poverty. Today, 1.2 billion people survive on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 a day and are deprived of their basic rights and opportunities. This is unjust, and unacceptable. And while we have reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by half since 1990, there is still much to do.
The Global Citizen Festival is a chance to celebrate the success we've already had fighting poverty, while accelerating progress on the core issues of education, women's equality, global health, and demonstrating how global partnerships can contribute to ending extreme poverty.
Like last year, Global Citizens can take action on globalcitizen.org to earn points for a chance to receive a ticket to the Global Citizen Festival. By sharing articles, videos and infographics about the core issues, as well as signing petitions and sending emails to world leaders, Global Citizens can be part of a movement that will create real change for those living in extreme poverty.
This year we will also campaign for systemic policy changes in the core areas of education, child and maternal health, and women's equality, which we know are fundamental to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can lift themselves out of poverty. We know that our goal is possible: the UN's High Level Panel of Eminent Persons -- a 27-member advisory group chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- recently suggested our world could see the end of extreme poverty by 2030.
Together with Global Citizens, we will campaign for:
Leaders to commit the funds needed to uphold their pledge to put every child into primary school by 2015, including the 57 million children who currently go without.
Leading financing agencies to answer the calls from African Governments for the funds needed to train and deploy hundreds of thousands of community health workers.
The telecommunications industry to step up and ensure that no health worker has to pay for airtime when a patient's life is at stake.
Governments to invest in a future where all children are fully immunized by increasing efforts to provide all vaccines recommended by the World Health Organisation to children everywhere.
The global community to embrace a bold, ambitious post-2015 development agenda that places the empowerment of girls and women as its core priority.
Our goals are both ambitious and bold. And, to be clear, it's not certain that we will be successful in getting everything, or indeed anything, we're asking for. History tells us that without strong public support, the chance of realizing any of our goals is low. Political leaders tend only to reach as high as we push them.
That's why this year's Global Citizen Festival is so crucial. It provides the platform to grow the Global Citizen movement into an unstoppable force that pushes world leaders -- as they deliberate at the UN General Assembly -- to fulfill the promises they made at the dawn of the century.
In the past 13 years, we have seen the biggest progress against extreme poverty ever made. Now we have the chance to bring the number of people living in extreme poverty down to zero ... forever. This vision will only become our reality if we -- as Global Citizens -- demand much-needed action from our leaders.
Hugh Evans is a social entrepreneur and an internationally renowned development advocate. Hugh is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Global Poverty Project.
Michael Sheldrickis an accomplished campaigner, commentator and speaker, Michael Sheldrick has been advocating on issues of extreme poverty since high school. He previously worked on high impact campaigns in Australia with Make Poverty History and The Oaktree Foundation, helping to secure the largest ever increase in Australian aid.
2013 presents a truly momentous opportunity in the fight against extreme poverty. With mass public awareness behind issues of global hunger through the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign; the UK's commitment to spend 0.7% of national income towards international aid; and with the UK Presidency of the G8 to focus on Tax, Transparency and Trade - 2013 looks to mark a truly significant moment in the fight against extreme poverty.
Amongst these opportunities for real social change, one in particular has exemplified the role we as global citizens can play in tangibly improving the livelihood of the world's poorest. The global programme for polio eradication.
One might be forgiven for thinking polio is a problem of the past. The disease hasn't been endemic in the UK for over 40 years, and fortunately over the last 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by an astonishing 99%- from more than 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 223 in 2012.
However progress remains perilous. As an infectious disease that invades the nervous system, causing paralysis and even death, largely amongst children under the age of five, polio continues to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable communities around the world. Indeed, the impact of polio is still very much felt in the remaining endemic countries of: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
Despite the unparalleled progress seen in the last two decades towards the eradication of polio, recent years have been plagued with a number of structural challenges. Chief amongst these has been a funding gap of $5.5 billion over the next 6 years for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (the public-private partnership which leads eradication efforts). Moreover, acute financial constraints in 2012 forced the GPEI to scale back activities in 24 high-risk countries, and with the expiration of the UK's 5-year financial programme towards polio eradication in 2012- the expansion of polio cases worldwide remains a very real threat.
It is, however, in response to this longstanding humanitarian crisis that we as global citizens have shown a renewed resilience.
With the concerted international efforts of the Global Poverty Project, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, this year truly marks the beginning for the end of polio.
In particular GPP's The End of Polio campaign has done much to raise awareness for the permanent eradication of this entirely preventable disease, by encouraging targeted grass-roots action; advocacy; public and parliamentary debate; and calling for the UK to join world leaders and fully-resource the fight against polio.
Some achievements from The End of Polio campaign include:
Political advocacy work through the Protecting 0.7 campaign, seeing the UK Government commit to spending 0.7% of national income towards international aid, confirming it as the first G8 nation to do so.
Hosting The End of Polio Parliamentary Diaspora Event- bringing together MP's, Peers, diaspora organisations, and the UK Department for International Development to discuss the urgent need for more sustained polio funding.
The incredibly committed work of the Global Poverty Project Ambassadors, which resulted in gathering over 3,500 signatures in just a few weeks for The End of Polio petition.
These efforts, cultivating support from within local communities, engaging with schools, faith organisations and civil society to maintain pressure on politicians to act has resulted in some truly meaningful change...
At the Global Vaccine Summit in April this year, the UK Government outlined their plan for a world without polio. A renewed commitment to spend £50 million per year, for the next 6 years to eradicate polio. That's £300 million to represent the livelihoods, futures and dreams of 360 million children. Incredibly, together with unprecedented international support, a total of US $4bn was pledged towards permanently eradicating polio by 2018.
It is this collective effort, from individual action to that of nation states, which should strengthen our resolve in our common global humanity.
Whilst of course we must ensure that funds are properly directed to those concerned; that we focus on the eradication and not just containment of polio; and that we continue to support the inspiring work of polio vaccinators across the world, we must also remember that:
"(Whilst) the last mile (in eradicating polio) is not only the hardest mile; it's also much harder than expected…(but) by doing something really hard for each other, we will demonstrate what is best about humanity. And that will inspire us to be more ambitious about what is possible in all our endeavors".
(Bill Gates, speaking at the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture entitled, The Impatient Optimist).
With your continued support; campaigning, petitioning and advocating for change, together we as global citizens can ensure that polio remains where it belongs… firmly placed in the realms of history.
Well what a 10 days that was in the fight against extreme poverty.
13 days ago the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign of 200 charities, including the Global Poverty Project, set out an ambitious agenda for the world’s richest leaders to tackle – on tax dodging, malnutrition and land grabs. Progress on these issues would have a significant impact on the worlds poor.
For the past 10 months I’ve been a member of the Organising Committee for the campaign, joining colleagues from Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, Action Aid, UNICEF UK, Comic Relief and others to activate a campaign to tackle one of the greatest scandals of our age – hunger.
And after some very notable successes – securing 0.7% of GNI on aid after 43 years of campaigning and by putting tax and malnutrition front and centre of the G8 agenda – On Saturday 8th June we entered 10 critical days of meetings and summits that could change the story of hunger.
For over 6 months we’ve been lobbying David Cameron, as chair of this year’s G8, and other world leaders and through private meetings and public action we’ve argued for tax information transparency, a halt on land grabbing and reform of the way companies acquire land and increased funding to tackle malnutrition, which claims the lives 2 million children every year.
We began the 10 days with one of the highlights of my campaigning career. On a brilliantly sunny day in Hyde Park we mobilised 45,000 people at The Big IF London. 45,000 who stood together, listened to voices from popular culture and from the developing world who prophesised a world without hunger and extreme poverty and who came together to call for improved funding for malnutrition at the Nutrition for Growth event, running concurrently in London.
Our voices were heard and the summit committed $1.4 billion in new money for malnutrition - an incredible result for the campaign and most importantly, for the world’s poor. Crucially now we must argue for that funding to be frontloaded. The money, currently earmarked for 2018 needs to be distributed sooner – it can’t wait.
Next we moved onto tax – a subject rich with interest both domestically and internationally. As often happens with global meetings, the agenda can often get pushed to one side for world events – in this case, Syria. But tax was the main theme going into the event and continued to drive discussions throughout the meeting.
At the ‘Trade, Tax and Transparency event last weekend, the UK government convinced all ten tax havens – from the Isle of Man to Bermuda – to gather ownership information of the companies doing business in their territories and provide the required tax information on them.
What’s clear from the G8 communiqué, and the report issued after the Open For Growth event, is G8 leaders understand the need to tackle tax dodging. And there’s a tacit understanding, for the most part, that developing countries receiving the tax they’re owed form a significant part of the solution.
The result was progress, but it also left us asking more questions. Language is always hugely significant in these circumstances. It’s carefully and diplomatically crafted and often takes Poirot levels of foresight to detect the true meaning. Sadly, in the case of tax and beneficial ownership, we were left somewhat disappointed by the lack of binding agreements made by Merkel, Hollande, Obama and co. For all the tough talk there’s a danger the outcome may be language and very little else. We know nothing of how we’ll get non-UK tax havens to sign up to the agreement or exactly how we’re going to include developing countries in the provisions.
But the real depth of avoidance is still unknown and companies will continue to avoid paying their fair share of tax to the developing world until we get a binding agreement with accountable processes. Right now, the G8 has all but acknowledged that there’s a problem. What happens between now and the next G8 summit in Russia in 2014 is largely unknown. The campaigning continues.
Nonetheless it was substantial progress. For years, tax campaigners have argued the need to address such a major obstacle in the fight against extreme poverty. The developing world loses three times as much in tax avoidance than it receives back in aid. We now have a development agenda that has moved beyond how much money we give to the developing world and is now focussed on what the structural problems are and how they can be addressed through global coordination.
Despite huge scepticism about the ability of these meetings to get solid agreements and concern about the G8’s dwindling power, there has been progress for the world’s poor. We’ve secured the funding for malnutrition and made progress on tax transparency. Crucially, we’ve built the momentum to make even more progress on tax. The IF Campaign, and every activist who turned up, tweeted or signed up to the campaign should be very proud of what we’ve achieved together.
Our real legacy, however, relies on what happens next. We’ve built a movement of people, of activists, passionate about ending some of the structural obstacles to eradicating extreme poverty. I hope as organisations we can work together to focus and inspire those campaigners to make more change in the future.
Several days ahead of the G8 summit myself and friends gathered in Botanic Gardens, Belfast as part of theBig IF campaign. The campaign has been backed by many different NGO’s to give strength to the mass of voices who want to contribute to the betterment of our world. Focusing on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is top of the agenda.
Bronagh and Soha deep in conversation discussing What IF?(no joke!)At Big If Belfast
It was inspiring to see that despite the pouring rain, enthusiastic individuals gathered together and enjoyed a day filled with spirit, enthusiasm and unity. Equally importantly it was a peaceful celebration of goodwill which couldn’t be turned into a negative news story. So in some ways although it was a quieter event than the BIG IF event London, the peaceful message sent from the BIGIF Belfast event speaks volumes.
Everyone here is talking about the G8 summit; from the contingency plans for getting to work on time to the content of President Obama’s speech. As an ambassador for the Global Poverty Project the hype surrounding the G8 summit has been something which I have been able to harness into meaningful conversations with many different people. I think this is what it’s really about. Even the title of the campaign lends itself very well to asking questions. What IF.. we ended world hunger? What can we achieve IF we make an effort? What can happen IF the world leaders listen?
People really want to talk about this. Some conclusions over the past week or so have been really insightful. Transformation has to happen on two levels ; one is changing the complex structures which perpetuate poverty, the other is at the level of the individual; thinking globally and acting locally. People are quick to ask what difference will the G8 summit make? The general consensus I have heard is that the G8 leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who can make the changes we need to see. But the fact that they draw the world’s attention to these issues is important . It’s then up to us how we contribute meaningfully to development and we have realised that our role is a very important one. We also realise that there is a lot of potential for good things to happen...
For the crafty amongst us there was even the opportunity to sew your own message onto the jigsaw. At Big If Belfast
It is a sorry state of affairs that even though there is enough food to feed everyone in the world, 1 in 8 continue to go to sleep hungry every night. It is equally heartbreaking that 3 million children are denied a future for this reason and die every year from hunger and malnutrition. Growth stunting is rife in infants; some 165 million infants in the developing world will grow up to lead lives which are permanently impeded by this ghoulish food deficit.
This is why on Saturday me and 45,000 of my fellow compatriots assembled in Hyde Park at the Big IF, to rally the G8 leaders meeting in Northern Ireland at the end of the week to think long and hard about issues such as these, and to come up with solutions to the problems posed by hunger.
The Big IF itself is made up of over 200 organisations, many of whom were exhibiting on the day, which lent the event a real festival-like atmosphere. As I walked around before the main event I was impressed by the range of organisations on show, from your typical development stalwarts such as Concern Worldwide, UNICEF and our own GPP, down to Fairtrade clothing brands and even the Vegan Society. What's more, everyone seemed empowered with the kind of vigour that manifests itself only at these sorts of events. You could smell passion in the air.
Once the main event started we were treated to a number of talks from Danny Boyle, Bill Gates, Natasha Kaplinsky, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and many others. Danny Boyle commended us all in carrying on a proud national tradition of “people in parks” fighting for change, all the while confident that this is “a fight that will be won”.
Bill Gates was also full of praise, commenting that “The UK is keeping its promise to the world's poor, largely because all of you remind your leaders regularly, and loudly, that this stuff matters.”
Bill Gates was on the money. After a touching segment led by Daniel Roche and Charlie McDonnell (of Outnumbered and YouTube fame respectively) and two young Tanzanians who had encountered growing up the very hunger we are all vying to end, we were then led by musician Angélique Kidjo in a mass singalong featuring a message of love and compassion she hoped would reach the spires of the Houses of Parliament.
It seems like our calls were heard. During the day's events, it broke through that at the Hunger Summit that morning, David Cameron had pledged an additional £375 million of funding towards fighting hunger. Applause erupted from the crowd. This was the icing on the cake, which certainly left me feeling vindicated that we had each accomplished something bigger than ourselves. A fantastic result.
The hard work is not over, however. There's another Big IF in Belfast this coming weekend, ahead of the G8 summit, and if anything today's event has driven into the public consciousness that we should open up the discourse around hunger. Hunger is awful, even unnecessary, and there are real solutions out there. It's just up to us to come together and speak up, to send a message to the G8 that it is not only possible to defeat hunger, but we cannot and will not abide it.