CNBC Meets

During a global pandemic is the wrong time to review WHO funding, Global Citizen CEO says

Key Points
  • Hugh Evans is CEO of Global Citizen which is collaborating with Lady Gaga, the UN and the World Health Organization on the ground-breaking virtual concert.
  • He said now was not the appropriate time for President Donald Trump to stop U.S. funding of the WHO.
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'One World: Together At Home' organizer Hugh Evans: The WHO need our support now more than ever

The organizer of "One World: Together At Home," an unprecedented star-studded global broadcast to support the WHO's response to the coronavirus pandemic, has told CNBC that it's not a "wise idea" to stop funding the public health agency.

Hugh Evans is co-founder and CEO of Global Citizen, the international advocacy organization collaborating with Lady Gaga, the UN and the World Health Organization on the ground-breaking virtual concert.

Speaking about President Donald Trump's recent decision to stop U.S. funding of the WHO while it reviews its response to Covid-19, Evans told CNBC that now is not the appropriate time.

"Do I think it's a wise idea to halt funding to the WHO? No, I don't. I think that the WHO needs our support now more than ever, because they're working to provide frontline community health workers with life-saving personal protective equipment, like gloves, like face masks, like gowns, so that they don't contract the virus," he said.

"Now, I do believe there is a time and a place to review what has happened. But right now, it's time for leadership to end this pandemic."

On Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. will suspend funding to the World Health Organization while it reviews the agency's response to the virus. He added that the agency made mistakes that "caused so much death." The WHO responded by saying the move would not be appropriate during the global coronavirus pandemic.

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Hugh Evans and Lady Gaga making history with 'One World: Together At Home'

'One World'

Global Citizen's broadcast will take place Saturday with performances from some of the biggest names in the global entertainment industry including Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Coldplay's Chris Martin, John Legend, Lang Lang, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez and Taylor Swift. The event aims to celebrate and support the world's frontline health-care workers.

Evans said the idea first started when the UN approached Global Citizen to ask artists to step up in response to the coronavirus. Lady Gaga became curator of the event.

"She reached out to Sir Paul McCartney, who reached out to artists like Elton John, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Pharrell, Lizzo, Alicia Keys, the list goes on and that powerful curation that she's provided has really brought the world together," Evans said.

"But I think what's also happened is it's brought businesses together, because she convened a private sector coalition call a few days ago and on there were the CEOs of many of the Fortune 500 companies, and they are all stepping up as part of this effort," he added. 

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'One World: Together At Home' global broadcast special 'won't replace live music'

'Virtual experiences will be the new norm'

The worldwide audience will not be asked to donate money. Over $35 million has already been raised from corporations, the private sector and philanthropists. "This is not a telethon. We knew at a time when people are losing jobs and are losing loved ones due to Covid-19, now is not the time to ask the general public for money. Now is the time to show a moment of global solidarity," he said.

Evans believes virtual experiences like this will have a permanent effect on the way consumers engage with music, but he still believes nothing will replace "the power of live."

"I think certainly until a vaccine is found and certainly until testing is prolific, then, yes, virtual experiences will be the new norm or the new normal for the foreseeable future. I still don't believe it will replace live music. I think the moment that live music is back again, people want to have that experience of feeling it live and being with the artists and being with their friends and family," Evans said.