Global Citizen Festival 2016

29/09/2016 13:16

Having only been a member of the Global Citizen team for a little over two weeks, I felt incredibly fortunate - and just a little awed - to play a small part in last week's phenomenal Global Citizen Festival in New York's Central Park.

The event is our flagship and it brings together Global Citizens from around the world to celebrate what unites them behind this brilliant organisation: a desire to see a world without extreme poverty by 2030.

The Festival is unique. It's incredibly powerful. And it works.

Around 60,000 people turned out to see musicians, political leaders and a host of celebrity activists appear on what must be the largest live platform of its kind anywhere in the world. The impressive line-up of acts included everyone from Yusuf/Cat Stevens to Rihanna whose performances were interwoven with commitments from policymakers from around the world.

The audience were all there as a result of the 1.3 million actions they'd taken in support of Global Citizen's campaigns - and they weren't disappointed. The commitments kept on coming. From the Netherlands, a total of $350 million to improve sanitation for 50 million people and access to water for 30 million worldwide. From Canada, Denmark and Australia, commitments totalling $40 million to further girls' education in the Asia-Pacific region. Organisations also took centre stage to announce accountability updates, including an announcement on behalf of UNICEF on the disbursal of $42 million for education that will benefit 1.5 million children over two years.

In total, 44 commitments were made that will help create a positive impact on 199 million lives around the world.

But as Kendrick Lamar and Neil Patrick Harris shared the stage with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Queen Rania of Jordan there was a noticeable lack of representation from the UK government. They were certainly asked. They were also contacted ahead of the Festival by British Global Citizens eager to have their own leader stand up and commit to further funding on girls' education and the eradication of polio. But there was no one present and no such commitments were made.

One person who would certainly have welcomed them was Nazish Karim, a young polio activist known as Sufi. Sufi's story is moving and utterly inspirational. As is her personal ambition to see her country free from polio by the end of this year, despite the challenges she's faced as a female health worker in her home nation of Pakistan. I was with Sufi just before she went on stage to be introduced to the crowd and it was so heartening to see her delight at having her tireless work recognised by 60,000 of her fellow Global Citizens.

After leaving the stage, Sufi and I wandered into the crowd to look back at where she'd recently been standing. Metallica was playing. Loudly. And it struck me that there probably isn't anywhere else in the world where I could be standing with this inspirational young woman from Pakistan listening to one of the world's most renowned bands in front of a stage where commitments were being made to create positive change for millions of people around the world.

Though we missed having the UK up on stage, we are hopeful that the UK government will continue its longstanding tradition of fighting for the rights of the poorest people. The UK not only provides crucial funding, but also has a long history of convening other world leaders to do the same. I believe that with the continued support of Global Citizens, we can show our government that millions of us support UK aid and the incredible impact that it has. We can help ensure that the UK takes the necessary action to eradicate a disease that people like Sufi are committed to preventing on a daily basis.

The Global Citizen Festival is the biggest platform of its kind through which governments can be held to account for the decisions they make and encouraged to do more to help lift people from extreme poverty throughout the world.

But it is not the only platform. If you'd like to learn how you could join Sufi and thousands of other Global Citizens in a drive to eradicate polio once and for all, please read on. It will only take a few minutes of your time to add your voice to our campaign but is has the potential to help change the world forever.