Rockers and The Rock unite to boost COVID-19 funding momentum

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, actor and former wrestler, will host the Global Citizen coronavirus pledging summit. Photo by: Megan Elice Meadows / CC BY-SA

BRUSSELS — The European Commission and advocacy organization Global Citizen will hold a coronavirus pledging summit Saturday, aiming to mobilize additional funding for vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Gavi smashes replenishment target at virtual summit

The Gavi replenishment secured a record $8.8 billion in funding for 2021 to 2025, serving as a “real injection of confidence into the multilateral system."

Hosted by actor and former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the virtual event will include performances from artists such as Coldplay and Shakira, statements from world leaders, and interviews with the celebrities Miley Cyrus and Angelique Kidjo, philanthropist Melinda Gates, and economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, among others.

The summit follows a May 4 pledging conference convened by the commission. A European Union spokesperson told Devex by email that €9.8 billion ($11 billion) has been raised so far from the May 4 event.

Despite the risk of donor fatigue in holding a second pledging conference so soon after, the spokesperson said it was necessary to meet the “still very big” funding needs and to bring in more countries, the private sector, and philanthropists. “This is why we count on the support of Global Citizen,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Money doesn’t come in just because it’s needed,” Friederike Röder, senior director for the EU at Global Citizen, told Devex in a phone interview last month. “You need to kind of create a dynamic or momentum. For that, you need to have very specific milestones ... where you can tell people, ‘OK, now you have to put money on the table.’”

Pledges announced Saturday will go toward the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; the Foundation for Innovative New DiagnosticsGavi, the Vaccine AllianceThe Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator; Unitaid; the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund; and The International and Regional Response Network.

Röder declined to say which new private actors and philanthropies had come on board since May but said that Saturday’s event would show “global mobilization across regions and across different actors: governments, foundations, artists, activists, and other partners.”

“Money doesn’t come in just because it’s needed. … You need to kind of create a dynamic or momentum.”

— Friederike Röder, senior director for the EU, Global Citizen

Only contributions that have yet to be announced will be counted in the tally from Saturday’s event, Röder said. That means any new commitments to Gavi will be on top of those already announced at the vaccine alliance’s replenishment on June 4, for example.

The extravaganza is billed as the culmination of the “Global Goal: Unite for Our Future” campaign, which describes itself as “a campaign, concert & summit calling on citizens to tackle global injustices by using our collective voice to drive change for everyone, everywhere.” It is supported by foundations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and companies including Citi, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Verizon, and Vodafone.

Asked if a third pledging conference should be expected, Röder responded that Saturday’s event is “just a milestone in a long marathon to ensure we develop a vaccine, make it accessible to everyone everywhere, and then build back better to prevent any future pandemic.”

About the author

  • Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.