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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Stevie Wonder to lead concert to protect global aid

AFP , Wednesday 2 Aug 2017
stevie wonder
(FILES) This file photo taken on December 3, 2016 shows musician Stevie Wonder attending the Universal Studio premiere of "Sing" in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: AFP)
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Stevie Wonder and Green Day will headline a concert in New York to mobilize support for efforts to eradicate global poverty as President Donald Trump proposes sweeping foreign aid cuts.

"Happy" pop star Pharrell Williams, chart-topping electronic duo The Chainsmokers and alternative rockers The Killers will also play the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on September 23, organizers announced Tuesday.

Wonder said the festival came at a "crucial time," adding in a statement: "When we commit ourselves to life issues, we are showing love of the Most High."

The festival has drawn A-list stars annually since 2012 as the largely young audience presses world leaders for commitments to development as they gather in New York for the UN General Assembly.

The 2017 edition comes in a sharply different political climate even as needs mount amid crises ranging from intractable wars in Syria and Yemen to hunger on the Horn of Africa.

Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans said the timing was critical -- after Trump's shock win and Britain's vote to exit the European Union but also amid a rejection of right-wing populism in elections in France and The Netherlands.

"Now is a hugely important point for there to be a line drawn in the sand that says foreign aid matters, investing in education matters, investing in food and hunger matters," Evans told AFP.

The festival, which has expanded over the past year to India and Germany, is free of charge with fans earning tickets by taking actions such as writing letters to their governments.

Hoping to expand its reach, the festival for the first time will be proceeded by a Global Citizen Week of discussions, films, art and music around New York.

Evans said the festival wanted to reach out to people, including political centrists, who believed in the possibility of making change in the world.

"In the same way that extreme poverty has been halved in the past 30 years while I've been alive, actually in the next 30 years we can end it all together," he said.

The United Nations has set the Millennium Development Goals whose targets include eradicating malnutrition, ensuring universal access to drinking water and providing equal educational opportunities to girls by 2030.

But Evans said it would be "virtually impossible" to achieve the goals if the United States implements Trump's plans. He wants to slash foreign aid by one-third while ramping up military spending as part of his "America First" platform.

US lawmakers, including some from Trump's Republican Party, support assistance in areas such as HIV/AIDS. But Evans said there was still a risk of major reductions in US aid, even if not by the same margins proposed by Trump.

The United States is the world's largest economy and donor in absolute terms, although many European nations give more in public funds on a per capita basis.

Alongside pressing for sustained US aid, the latest festival will seek support for the Global Partnership for Education, which promotes schooling in poor countries -- an area where progress has lagged behind some health areas.

Other acts to play the Global Citizen Festival include folk rockers The Lumineers, soul singer Andra Day, rising Canadian pop songwriter Alessia Cara and rapper Big Sean.

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