When Global Citizen began holding simultaneous concerts at various locations around the planet in 2012, the organization’s primary stated aim was to end global poverty. That hasn’t changed, but the tumultuous, trying half-decade we’ve all just lived through has pushed Global Citizen to expand its strategic scope to tackle the concurrent crises – COVID-19, war in Ukraine, climate change and its poisoned fruits, including droughts and wildfires — that challenge the planet’s population.
“The world is trapped in a vicious cycle of lunging from crisis to crisis without addressing the structural causes,” says Hugh Evans, co-founder and CEO of Global Citizen. “We’re going to see more and more crises every year — you don’t need to look beyond the wildfires of California to see it’s going to happen again and again.” To that end, Global Citizen is focusing on a new 12-month campaign to “radically expand investment” in infrastructure that can weather climate change while simultaneously pressuring world banks to suspend debt repayments in times of global crises. The latter is particularly an issue for vulnerable nations who are forced to fork over money “at the very time they’re on their knees because their whole economy was destroyed overnight” by a flood, hurricane or other disaster, he says. “These are things within our power to change.”
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The organization’s data- and solution-based approach to tackling what can sometimes seem like insurmountable issues has attracted a slew of A-list musicians, actors, celebrities, executives, entrepreneurs and politicians over the last decade, with artists like Beyoncé, Metallica, Usher and Chris Martin continually giving their time to amplify the org’s message.
This Saturday (Sept. 24) — pegged to the United Nations’ General Assembly, which begins this week — Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, Måneksin, Mariah Carey, Mickey Guyton and Rosalía will headline the annual Global Citizen Festival concert on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park. That same day, Usher, SZA, Stormzy and Tems are among the headliners for a sister event in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
“I’ve performed on stages around the world, and a collaboration with an organization like Global Citizen always makes it extra special. For the past decade, Global Citizen has shown how our art is about more than just music,” says 19-time Hot 100 topper Mariah Carey. “Working together in the fight to end extreme poverty is an incredible opportunity to connect with fans and artists from around the globe and envision the world we want for generations to come. I can’t wait to be on stage in Central Park using music as a force for good.”
“As a performer, I’m constantly evolving my artistic preferences and recognize my fans are too. But one place I’ve remained steadfast is my commitment to ending extreme poverty,” says Usher, taking a breather from his acclaimed Las Vegas residency. “The fact that music has the power to drive necessary change and spur real discussion invigorates me, and that’s never been more apparent than when you look out at the Global Citizen Festival audience and see the massive crowds all united under one common and urgent goal.”
Metallica’s drummer and co-founder, Lars Ulrich, echoed the sentiment. “Music undoubtedly has the power to change the world – and we’ve witnessed this first-hand over the last ten years of Global Citizen’s dedicated efforts,” says the metal legend. “One of the biggest reasons we keep joining this fight with Global Citizen is because we have seen the real-world impact and results of their movement.”
“We’re so thankful for the support the music industry has given us,” Evans says. “We’d be nowhere without people like Michele Anthony [executive vp, Universal Music Group] and Rob Light [managing partner/head of worldwide touring, Creative Artists Agency] and Michael Rapino [president/CEO, Live Nation Entertainment] and Jay Marciano [chairman/CEO, AEG Presents; COO/office of the chairman, AEG]. I’m eternally indebted.”
“It’s been a joy to witness the unique role Global Citizen has played over the last 10 years for artists and fans everywhere, and for the industry at large, to help create world change through the power of music,” says Anthony, who is also a Global Citizen board member. “Music has always been at the core of social change, and I’m constantly inspired by trailblazing artists taking to the Global Citizen Festival stage, demonstrating an authentic desire to come together for good, and adding their voices to the movement to strive for a brighter future. Global Citizen continues to prove that music has the might to help move mountains, as it elevates concerts into world-changing events that resonate across cultures and continents, and help to achieve a more equitable world.”
Evans emphasizes how hands-on their music industry partners have remained over the years, whether it’s Rapino being “the first person to call” him when a new crisis emerges or the Coldplay frontman strategizing with him on how to “cut through” the noise and imbue people with “a greater sense of urgency at a time when attention spans are even shorter.”
And the door is wide open for more partners, particularly when it comes to people who can help “drive younger generations” to take action. “If you’re an artist and a music executive and you want to work with us to meaningfully mobilize to help break systemic barriers – particularly as they relate to climate change, empowerment of women and girls and poverty alleviation – we’d love to work with you,” Evans says.
Måneskin – one of the newer artists to enter the fold after performing at Global Citizen Live in Paris last year – says they’re thrilled to use their stage power to fuel “so much energy focused toward positive change,” noting that attendees get tickets by taking action to help the org’s mission. “It means a lot to us that people from all different walks of life play their part in generating real change in order to attend this concert,” the Italian rock band says in a joint statement. “For us, there’s no better way to celebrate their collective actions and showing the uniting power of rock n’ roll. We’re beyond excited to share the stage again this year alongside so many truly phenomenal artists.”
Global Citizen Festival’s decade-long presence on Central Park’s Great Lawn is something of a coup in itself, which Evans and David Beame, vp of Global Events & Experiences at Global Citizen, acknowledge couldn’t have happened without support from the City of New York, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the NYPD and the NYFD.
“I was born in the Bronx and now I live in Brooklyn, so Central Park has always felt like the heart of the city to me, so to have produced 10 festivals on the Great Lawn that have impacted so many lives feels amazing,” says Beame. “We’ve been able to do so much for the world’s poor, but there’s still more action urgently needed now than ever before. Not since Live Aid happened have we seen the kind of dire need we see today, and urgent action is needed right now to mitigate the issues that war, climate inaction and the pandemic have brought on to the world’s extreme poor.”
Even with the success of Global Citizen, Evans is keenly focused on setting and achieving tangible goals as opposed to falling into a comfortable pattern. “The world will continue to jump from crisis to crisis unless we reform the system itself. I don’t think anyone wants to do benefit concert after benefit concert. We want to live in a world where we can address challenges that we know are already going to happen,” he says. “(With accelerating climate change), we’ll all be affected — it all has a reverberating effect on the economy. The only way to address these issues is as a global citizen.”