Before thousands of people in New York’s Central Park and a far greater audience on television, the Global Citizen Festival sought to use entertainment to broaden support for new United Nations development goals.
Beyonce, playing just her second concert this year, was the top attraction for many fans who obtained tickets not by paying but by committing to activism ranging from writing letters to volunteering.
Other performers included rock veterans Pearl Jam and Coldplay, fresh English pop sensation Ed Sheeran, socially conscious rapper Common and – in an effort to raise the profile of the festival in India – leading Bollywood singer Sunidhi Chauhan.
Beyonce closed an energetic set by welcoming to the stage a surprise guest she hugged warmly – Michelle Obama.
The U.S. first lady encouraged the audience to use social media to campaign on behalf of the estimated 62 million girls worldwide who are not in school.
“They deserve the same chances to get an education as my daughters and your daughters and all of our children,” she said.
“And make no mistake about it – giving them that chance is at the core of our work to end global poverty.”
The prime ministers of Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and Sweden came to the festival to offer support, with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron appearing by video.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, one of the world’s top donors, said that the festival should serve as a catalyst for a “massive increase in educational funding.” She called for the world to ensure that all children in the world can attend school for 12 years, with nine years compulsory.
“We have the power to turn the dreams of millions of children into reality, so let’s start now,” she said.