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What role should corporations play in the fight to end extreme poverty?

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, What are you doing for others?”

Ending extreme poverty will be one of the greatest challenges for our generation. Widespread access to technology and increasing interconnectivity present a key opportunity for us to positively impact the lives of the world’s poorest.  Often, aspects of social good are relegated to what is called the 'third sector,' a realm that is separate from the state and corporations. The third sector, largely occupied by nonprofits, can undeniably help in achieving the greatest challenges of the century.

But, why shouldn’t governments and businesses also be able to stand at the forefront of social responsibility? 

Partnerships between public and private institutions have been critically important in addressing the issues that keep people in extreme poverty.  The progress that has been made in helping to eradicate polio is a great example of how partnerships can be essential in the fight to end extreme poverty. 

Over 350,000 cases of polio were diagnosed in 1988 alone.  Mass outbreaks of the disease led the global community to rally together and create the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the largest public-private health coalition that the world has ever seen.  By joining together the skills and expertise of the World Health Organization, Rotary International, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF, the global community has been able to bring the number of countries where polio is endemic down from 125 in 1988 to just 3 in 2013.  In fact, only 223 cases of polio were diagnosed throughout the world in 2012!

A world without extreme poverty is only going to become a reality if we - as Global Citizens - create and commit to a new global partnership that involves us, charities, companies, and governments around the world. 

On September 28, the Global Poverty Project will host the 2013 Global Citizen Festival, presented in partnership with the Cotton On Foundation, in Central Park.  The Festival, taking place on a giant stage whose delivery was donated by FedEx, is a free, ticketed event featuring Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, and John Mayer.  54,000 tickets will be given away to those who take action to end extreme poverty on GlobalFestival.com.

The 2013 Global Citizen Festival is an advocacy tool for us to achieve policy wins across four key areas: health, education, women's equality, and global partnerships for development.  We believe that these core areas can have a real impact on accelerating progress toward ending extreme poverty.  We will use the Festival stage to showcase some of the leading global partnerships out there right now, and we’re working to be able to announce new partnerships that can create real impact for the world’s poor. We are thrilled to be working alongside companies like the Cotton On Foundation, HP, FedEx, Forbes, and Kidnected World to build a movement to end extreme poverty.

The Global Poverty Project and our partners fundamentally believe that you should be able to follow your dollar, and be proud of the journey it takes.  As ‘corporate social responsibility’ becomes a household term, customers increasingly seek products that are ethically sourced.  For example Cadbury, a major chocolate company, began using Fairtrade chocolate in 2009 and saw yearly profits increase by 30 percent. Over $9 billion is spent each year on Fairtrade products.  In this day and age, social responsibility in the private sector makes ‘cents.’ 

The Global Citizen Festival will be a unique opportunity to feature some of the leading socially responsible companies in the world.  Our sponsors, like The Cotton On Foundation and FedEx, know that ending extreme poverty requires us to work through global partnerships. When corporations, governments, nonprofits, and individuals join together we can have tremendous impact on the lives of the world’s poorest.

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