Can the Global Citizen Live concert fight poverty and climate change?

Published 2021-09-29 08:04

Kids can do their part too, experts say 


On Saturday, millions of people around the world tuned in online for a 24-hour concert for change called Global Citizen Live.

Simon Moss, one of the co-founding members of Global Citizen, told CBC Kids News that the goal was: “Creating a world free of extreme poverty and safe from climate change by the year 2030.”

Live concerts were held in locations around the world, including Paris (France), New York (U.S.) and Lagos (Nigeria) and were streamed online.

Performers included Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Shawn Mendes and many more.

However, questions have been raised as to whether concerts like these are an effective way to call for change.

Elizabeth Gomery, a Canadian fundraising specialist and founding partner of Philanthropica,  said the idea behind the concert is a good one, and it’s been done many times before.

But she added that it’s “an easy way to make people feel good about getting involved without actually really having to work all that hard to change things.”

Elizabeth Gomery is a fundraising professional based in Montreal, Quebec. (Image credit: Dany Dao and Andy Son)

Gomery pointed out that one of the concert’s major sponsors is Coca-Cola.

“Coca-Cola is one of the worst polluters in terms of plastic products in the world.”

She also said that the company sells water, while one of the goals of Global Citizen Live is to make water accessible — and free — to people who don’t have it.

Global Citizen Live responds

In an interview with Moss, I asked him about this, and how some of Global Citizen’s list of major sponsors can be seen to be contradictory to their goal.

His response was: “The sponsorship dollars they bring to help put on these events would otherwise get spent on just normal marketing campaigns.”

Simon Moss co-founded Global Citizen more than 10 years ago after travelling and wanting to make a difference. ‘You don't have to be an adult and you don't have to have money to start creating the world that you want to see,’ he said. (Image credit: Global Citizen Live)

“We are proud to work with people who are willing to say: ‘Hey, let's take some of those marketing dollars and use those to speak out on the issues that are there,’” Moss said.

He said the concert also featured speeches from activists who are given a platform they may not otherwise get to spread their messages to millions of people.

What were the speeches about?

During the concert, Prince Harry criticized large pharmaceutical companies for not sharing the recipes for their COVID-19 vaccines with countries that have the resources to produce their own.

The World Health Organization has said that sharing recipes is one way to help vaccinate people in poorer countries, as well as sharing vaccines.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on a Global Citizen live stage

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attended the concert in New York. (Image credit: Global Citizen Live)

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, talked about how the richest people in the United States have only become richer during the pandemic.

Global Citizen followed that statement by announcing ways their organization is helping, including:

This is possible thanks to “partnerships between government, philanthropy, non-governmental organizations and the private sector,” according to a news release.

Shawn Mendes on stage playing guitar

Canadian Shawn Mendes performed in New York. After the concert, he tweeted: ‘feels so good to be back with you guys and can’t wait to see you all on tour next year.’ (Image credit: Global Citizen Live)

Moss said people can follow the organization’s progress on their social media accounts.

A tweet from Global Citizen that says 'thank you to everyone who took action for #globalcitizen! 1.1 billion $ to defeat poverty, 157 million trees to defend the planet, 60 million + vaccines to end the pandemic. You did that. Learn about what you helped to achieve.

But Gomery cautioned kids to think critically about things like concerts that claim to defeat poverty.

“One thing that kids demonstrate time and time and time again is how sophisticated they are, and how they have a deep understanding of a lot of these issues,” she said.

“So, to simplify what the issue is by saying, watch this concert, help defeat global poverty … we’re not speaking to young people in an appropriate fashion.”

How can you help?

Being a kid, it can seem impossible to make an actual difference or to actively participate in creating change in our world.

Both Moss and Gomery said kids can play a part and make a difference.

Here is some of their advice:

About the Contributor

Caden Teneycke
Caden Teneycke
Caden is in Grade 12 and from Ladysmith, B.C. He has always had an interest in news and a passion for all things media-related. At 11, he started a YouTube channel to explore videography, while also spreading awareness about his life as a little person. With a rare form of dwarfism that affects his hips, spine and joints, Caden stands at about three and a half feet tall and uses a Segway for his mobility. He’s also an ambassador for the BC Children’s Hospital I’m a HIPpy Foundation.

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