sustainable development
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Global Citizen Festival 2014: The Finale to UNGA and the Road Ahead

At the end of the 69th session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA), one message rang clear: there is much more work to be done. Luckily, we are at a time of great momentum, where youth voices are speaking louder than ever, demanding their most basic human rights and a seat a the table to develop the post-2015 development agenda.

On Saturday, the third installment of the Global Citizen Festival was held on Central Park’s Great Lawn, attracting around 60,000 attendees. Created by the Global Poverty Project, the festival’s mission – to end global poverty by 2030 – is shared by attendees, as ticketholders must earn their spot through online activism such as sending tweets, signing petitions, or sending Facebook messages.


Find more Global Citizen Festival photos on our Flickr

This year delivered not only with big name performances – Jay Z, No Doubt, Carrie Underwood, the Roots, Fun., Tiesto – but with powerful speeches and political announcements from world dignitaries and President Barack Obama (pre-recorded). Celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Dianna Agron, and Zachary Quinto shared the stage with Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prime Minister Narenda Modi of India, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway to speak of global poverty, and epidemics like Ebola, HIV, poor sanitation, and access to clean water.

In partnership with the World Bank, the festival has helped commit $2.9 billion to save 500,000 lives by 2015, part of the World Bank’s global pledge of $15 billion to improve sanitation and access to clean water. Leaders from Sweden, India, and Norway also added to the pledges throughout the evening.

The Global Citizen Festival capped a week where more than 140 world leader converged at the United Nations to discuss climate change, partnerships, the empowerment of women, and which targets will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. And while it was certainly a celebration, it did not take more than a few moments in the audience to recognize that much more work lay ahead.

The crowd – majority young people – could be found sitting, texting, or talking when speakers were on stage, often only paying attention when musicians were performing. In fact, some speeches and announcements were barely audible as the audience turned their attention off stage. The words, “Ladies and gentlemen, President Barack Obama…” was greeted with boos and sighs when it was realized the President was not in attendance but rather giving a pre-recorded speech. Even celebrity and activist Olivia Wilde noted, “no one’s paying attention,” when trying to speak of the 22 million children who don’t have access to vaccinations.


Find more Global Citizen Festival photos on our Flickr

In order to be the generation the end global poverty, there is more work ahead. We must go beyond Facebook posts, re-tweets, and online pledges and commit to real activism. While visual petitions like the #ShowYourSelfie campaign have proven to be successful at raising awareness for world leaders that the needs and rights of young people must be a priority in the post-2015 agenda, we must engage youth even more to become active beyond their mobile phone or laptops. We must look to the powerful young leaders who are out there raising their voices with inspiring ideas to end poverty and ensure a brighter future for the next generation. Rather than be accused of “slacktivism”, young people must continue to stand up for what they deserve and want in their future. Theirs is the only voice that can inspire real change amongst policymakers and world leaders. As was a common saying at UNGA, “Nothing about us without us!”

Raise your voice for sustainable development with these resources:

This entry was posted in: sustainable development


Lauren Himiak worked as a journalist for a decade, covering stories in public health and travel, and currently works for Women Deliver where she is interested in issues of reproductive health, SGBV, gender equality, and youth empowerment. She has volunteered in Uganda and Haiti, working with local institutions like House of Hope and Let Haiti Live to improve education, health, and resources for children. Lauren is passionate about girls' empowerment and is interested in ways to improve gender equality and equal opportunity in both the developed and developing world. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from The New School and is an active advocate for the rights of women and girls, volunteering time with the National Organization for Women (NOW), Vera House, New York Cares, and local women's health clinics.

1 Comment

  1. Excellent post. I agree, while it is commendable to have online activism, we also need advocates and activists out there raising their voices with Congress and through blogging and real actions like volunteering and feeling so passionate about a cause that they do something. We do have a long ways to go but it is great that youth are getting involved. I loved the Social Good Summit and wished I could have attended the Festival.

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