Gwen Stefani and No Doubt along with special guest, Sting rehearse for the Global Citizen Festival on The Great Lawn in Central Park, New York on Sept. 26, 2014.
Photo by Alex Welsh for MSNBC

When pop meets politics as a force for good

Some may roll their eyes at the thought of pop-culture intersecting with politics. But the truth is: in the modern age, it always has.

From Bob Geldof and his Band Aid to Bono, from Gandhi to Mandela, pop and rock artists and world leaders have long been considered popular icons. We look to them for hope, inspiration and cultural leadership. They drive our social discourse, and shape the way we understand our place in the world.

But the world is facing issues greater than any world leader can solve alone. Around the world, more than 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty – an injustice no one should bear.

Yet last 15 years have seen the most successful anti-poverty push in history. Thanks to this global effort, the possibility of a world without extreme poverty by as early as 2030 is within reach. To achieve it will require the attention of men and women, policymakers and influencers around the world to achieve this goal.

Since 2000, child death rates have fallen by more than 30 percent while the number of children out of school has been reduced by 42 million. Norway has long supported many of the effective mechanisms that have helped lead to some of these incredible results, including the Global Partnership for Education and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Still, more than six million children die before their fifth birthday. More than half of from preventable and treatable causes like lack of access to something as basic as a 30-cent vaccine or even a toilet. Meanwhile 1 in 10 children worldwide still go through life without a basic primary education and 1 in 4 young people in low-and middle-income countries are unable to read a sentence.

Women and girls in particular face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. Despite making up half of the world’s population, women represent a staggering 70% of the world’s poor. For these women, their lives are a litany of injustice, and discrimination. They face unnecessary obstacles that impede their ability to achieve good health, safe childbirth, education and employment opportunities. Insecurity travelling to school, a shortage of female teachers and the lack of separate toilets also prevents girls from staying in school.

The challenges is traditional forms of aid, trade and charity can’t solve these issues alone. For the 1.2 billion people living below $1.25 a day, breaking this cycle requires a movement of concerned citizens, politicians, up-start CEOs, and rock-stars committing to make this a reality.

And the time is now. We have the means, the tools, and the will. We only need to act.

Our world is more interconnected that it’s ever been. And our younger generations are looking for a way to make an impact beyond their immediate surroundings. It’s clear now that one person’s actions 10,000 miles away does affect the way we live at home.

This is why the idea of global citizenship has transcended borders, mobilized hundreds of thousands of actions, and galvanized support from world leaders and celebrities alike.

Events like the Global Citizen Festival bring this movement to a head. And it’s why we will both appear on the stage in New York’s Central Park – No Doubt to perform in support of efforts to ensure all children survive and thrive, and the Prime Minister of Norway to make a commitment to ending extreme poverty.

It’s a tremendous, unique moment when pop-culture and politics unite to demand that the global community take concrete action such as fully funding the work of the Global Partnership for Education and Gavi. And that’s the point. When enough noise can be made, governments and companies alike can be pushed to make commitments to tackle the worst forms of human suffering.

When pop meets politics and the masses unite with one voice, leaders listen. And systemic policy change – from girls education to health access – can help ensure that everyone, everywhere can lift themselves out of poverty. And it’s in our best interest to see a world without extreme poverty by 2030.

Erna Solberg is the prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates Group. No Doubt is an American rock band from California. 

Global Citizen and Global Poverty Project

When pop meets politics as a force for good