The scope of the Global Citizen Festival remains the same as it did for the prior two iterations, to mitigate extreme poverty worldwide though this year the organizers directed additional attention to the subjects of vaccines, education and sanitation. Regarding sanitation, there was a lot of attention directed towards open defecation, a huge issue in India in particular. Amongst the global leaders in attendance (as the festival is timed to coincide with world leaders being in New York for the U.N. Global Summit) was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had been implicated as one of the instigators of religious violence against Muslims (by Hindus) in Gujurat in 2002 where he was Chief Minister at the time. And he hadn’t been permitted to enter the United States from that point on, until he became elected Prime Minister in 2014 so he was given a moment at the festival to pledge that Indians citizens will have access to toilets by 2019. Other world leaders were present, including Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who pledged over $1.2 billion towards vaccinations worldwide over the next several years, and some NGO leaders including World Bank President Jim Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
But for many of nearly 50,000 people in attendance at the six hour event, including one girl who drove up from Tennessee, the primary attraction was not actor Hugh Jackman introducing Ban Ki-Moon or Olivia Wilde talking about her recent charitable endeavors, but the powerful and diverse line-up of musicians. Via an online lottery, for which people earned entries by completing socially conscious activities, the lucky people in attendance got to see performances from Jay Z and Beyonce, No Doubt (their first show in a couple of years) do a set with Sting guesting for one song, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys with Idan Raichel, The Roots and more. The concert was available as a stream online or live on MSNBC (with noticeable delay) for those that couldn’t go, but given the opportunity to be out on Central Park on a lovely summery day, Global Citizen Festival was a perfect outing… if you could get in (VIP ticket holders complained of long lines). It may be hard to determine what the attendees’ motives were but if they were genuine, but if even a small percentage of them feel urged to donate, or be more socially active that is a good start.