by Davinia James

There are always those crazy ones who think they can change the world and refuse to stop at anything until they do. These rare souls can be referred to as “Global Citizens”.  A Global Citizen is a person who can rationalize their life experiences without undue consideration of national boundaries or cultural differences.

In 2013, I heard about Global Citizen Festival through Girl Rising, a foundation that aims to promote the education of girls worldwide. Upon research, I found out that this festival was a movement to end global poverty by 2030, while also tackling major issues of the world. These issues include:

  • Girls and women
  • Health
  • Education
  • Finance and Innovation
  • Food and Hunger
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Environment
  • Citizenship

Before Global Citizen became the movement it is today, Hugh Evans the Co-founder of the Global Citizen Festival brought the “Make Poverty History Campaign” to Australia. They staged a concert around the time of G20 with local artists and a number major artists including Bono and Pearl Jam.

According to Evan’s 2016 TedTalk, he defines a Global Citizen as someone who identifies first and foremost not as a member of a state, a tribe or a nation but a member of the human race. A Global Citizen is someone who is prepared to act on that belief to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.

Evans grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and considered himself a “why kid.” He often asked peculiar questions and looked forward to answers that he could comprehend. He always thought he could change the world and stood by that belief. At age 12, through his high school, he was awarded the chance to go the the Philippines. This experience introduced him to a different way of life, and ignited something within himself to create change for the people of the world. The “why kid” came face to face to what is a reality to millions. He ventured into the slums of Manila and became friends with Sonny Boy, who lived on Smokey Mountain. He described Smokey Mountain to be more reminiscent a pile of garbage. Children often spent hours going through garbage with hopes of finding something, anything that was valuable.

His time with Sonny Boy revealed an in-depth experience of what poverty looked like. When it was time for bed, Sonny Boy, his family and Evans slept on a concrete slab which he described as being half the size of his bedroom back in Australia. On this concrete slab, seven people slept amongst insects crawling around and the strong stench of garbage. It was at this moment he thought, “Why should anyone have to live like this when he had so much?” and “Why should Sonny Boy’s ability to live out his dreams be determined by where he was born?”

According to the World Bank, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty. In the Philippines, almost a third of their population lives below the poverty line. The city of Manila is the one of the poorest and 50% of the 20 million that live in the slums, lives on Smokey Mountain.

With what Evans witnessed in the Philippines and the knowledge he has gained throughout the years, he realized charity alone wasn’t going to eradicate the issues at hand. Instead, the core of the problem of poverty hid elsewhere. Hence, effective change needed to be done on a global scale and in a systematic way, challenging all issues of the world. 

The Make Poverty History Campaign was a success, however, Evans considered it to be just one part of a whole system that needed to be established. In 2012, Evans was approached by Ryan Gall with the idea for Global Citizen and it was then that the festival was born.

Music is a universal language that Global Citizen uses as an advantage in recruiting and engaging Global Citizens to take action on social justice issues. The Global Citizen Festival was launched in Central Park where some of the world’s biggest artist have performed. This festival coincides with the UN General Assembly meeting. Evans and Gall focus on world leaders hearing the voices of Global Citizens. In order to attend this event, you have to earn tickets through taking action on global issues that they present.

  • 62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.
  • 57% have used their phone to do online banking.
  • 44% have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.
  • 43% to look up information about a job.
  • 40% to look up government services or information.
  • 30% to take a class or get educational content.
  • 18% to submit a job application.      

This year on September 24th, Global Citizen will hold their 5th annual festival with headliners Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Demi Lovato, Major Lazer and Metallica. This organization is still on their journey in ending global poverty by 2030 and even though they have a long way to go, they have already made quite a big impact. Hugh Evans, Ryan Gall and their team are driven to getting global citizens worldwide engaged in doing their part in creating change. Last month, it was announced that Montreal, Canada, would host their first ever Global Citizen Festival directed at ending HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.  A few of their headliners were Usher, Half Moon Run, Grimes and Metric. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance along with his wife Sophie Gregorio Trudeau. To add to this exciting news, on September 12, it was announced India will also host their very own Global Citizen Festival with Coldplay and Jay Z being two of their headliners.

Global Citizen is on its way in becoming one of the greatest and biggest social change movements the world has ever seen. Change is you. Change is me. It’s time to act! Quoting Hugh Evans, “I AM A GLOBAL CITIZEN! ARE YOU?”