BY Ariana Pyles
The Global Poverty Project, an international advocacy organization, hosted its 4th annual Global Citizen Festival last month in Central Park. Over 60,000 people piled onto the Great Lawn to see performances by Ed Sheeran, Common, Pearl Jam, Beyoncé and many more.
The festival was held to bring attention to extreme poverty worldwide. A line-up of celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Stephen Colbert, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, spoke to the crowd to promote GPP’s mission of resolving what it calls 17 critical global concerns, such as poverty, hunger, education and inequality.
According to its website, GPP predicts global poverty will end by 2030 if people become politically active and spread awareness. Working with different organizations, contacting city officials and campaigning are actions the GPP believes are required of a global citizen, whom it defines as someone who identifies with being a part of an emerging world community that can fight worldwide injustice.
“They encourage you to take lots of different kinds of global actions, so there were Twitter messages that you had to post,” said Christine Connelly, an Upper East Side resident who went to the festival.
People of all ages attended the free concert, but tickets were required for entry. While some people won them through radio drawings, Sandy Schwartz, of the Upper East Side, went through a lengthy process for hers.“There were petitions to sign. There were two or three tweets you had to put out, two or three Facebook postings,” she said. “You had to make calls to either a senator or world leader asking them to take a position on something related to poverty, education or women’s rights; or some had you write a letter to a head of state.”
According to the Pew Research Center, anyone living on $2 or less a day is considered poor. In the U.S., approximately one in 50 people lives on $2 or less daily. The 2014 American Community Survey reported that 918, 641 children in the state of New York live in poverty. In 2010, 21 percent of the nation’s poor population lived in high-density counties like New York City. Manhattan had the lowest poverty rate of 15.8 percent out of the five boroughs, and the Bronx had the highest at 27.1 percent, according to nyc.gov.
Women In Need, a Midtown-based nonprofit with 11 shelters across the five boroughs, would not comment on the Global Poverty Project’s plan to end poverty by 2030, but did speak about its own steps to combat poverty for women and children in New York City.
“WIN provides shelter to more than 4,500 people every night, including 2,600 children,” said a WIN spokesperson. “WIN is focused on solutions for the many causes of homelessness by helping more than 11,600 people each year [to] improve their job skills, life skills and personal health and by providing childcare and after school programs.”
Curtis Skinner, a labor economist and director of the Family Economic Security program for the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said, “raising the minimum wage to $15 and housing affordability,” reduces poverty for families in NYC. “I guess their perspective is to make people aware of the problem,” said Skinner of GPP’s plan. “The 2030 thing, people do that; they set these goals, which is good because it’s challenging. If you set too extreme of a goal people think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Dale Maharidge, a social issues expert and professor at Columbia Journalism School, isn’t convinced of GPP’s plan. “I’m skeptical of anybody who claims they’re going to end world poverty,” he said. “Even in developed countries it’s [poverty] expanding; it’s not contrived. And we theoretically have the resources and we’re not using them.”
Maharidge suggests it’s impossible to end global poverty entirely, and that we must first change the way we live, and then make beneficial, lifelong changes in undeveloped countries. “Dig water wells, install 600 feet of poly pipes and solar insulation systems that can pump water up so people can grow food,” he said. “Teach a man how to fish and he’ll never be hungry again; give him a fish, he’s not hungry for one day,” he added, paraphrasing the Jewish philosopher Maimonides.
The Global Poverty Project declined to comment.