NEW YORK – The statistics discussed at the inaugural Global Citizen NOW conference were bleak.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed 100 million people back into lives of extreme poverty. Up to 243 million people could face food insecurity between now and November due to the war in Ukraine. In Afghanistan, 24 million people depend on charitable donations for food.
Yet Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans says he feels optimistic: The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the world can unite to fight a crisis when it needs to.
Evans and the dozens of speakers from the worlds of business, politics, culture and philanthropy gathered for the two-day summit in New York that concluded Monday expressed hope that same united effort can be applied to help curb climate change, food insecurity and extreme poverty.
“During the pandemic, the world was able to mobilize $17 trillion in economic stimulus, largely for hard-hit sectors of the economy, which I think was the right thing to do,” Evans told The Associated Press. “Why do we not respond with the same degree of urgency to climate change? Because we don’t internalize this idea of (helping) now. We think ‘acceptable loss.’”
The Global Citizen NOW summit was organized to bring leaders together to change “acceptable loss” to “action now.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told “Friday Night Lights” actress Connie Britton about the importance of getting people to work together. “They know where there can be common ground,” she said of Global Citizen. “It’s a place where we laugh together, cry together, are inspired together, dance together — you can never do too much dancing, I always say — and forget our differences.”
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem said she worries about the suffering that could come from the Supreme Court’s overturning of its Roe v. Wade decision, but she is hopeful because she knows that the situation will not be as bad as when abortion was illegal throughout the country. “Obedience cannot be secured by unjust laws because people just don’t obey them,” she said.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said that a bipartisan consensus on climate change can be built by creating a policy that meets national security, energy and economic priorities. “You get bipartisan agreement by creating an understanding where all understand the connection to what they hold most important,” he said.
Many panelists discussed the Global Citizen idea of creating change from the bottom up, by mobilizing millions of its followers to convince their political and business leaders to change their minds.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario explained how her series about maternal mortality in Sierra Leone convinced Merck to donate $500 million to establish the Merck for Mothers initiative to reduce the risks of childbirth.
CNN political commentator Van Jones said “the genius of Global Citizen” is bringing hopeful, hard-working people together to discuss victories and future challenges.
“I think the world is running at a hope deficit,” Jones told The Associated Press. “I live in the world of bad news and this is like a supernova of good news.”
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