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Gillard and Rihanna join forces

An unlikely partnership has formed between former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and music star Rihanna. Picture: Julia Gillard / Twitter

RIHANNA is now an unlikely fan of former prime minister Julia Gillard after they shared a stage in New York to announce a common goal.

Top names in music joined political figures at The Global Citizen Festival, broadcast live from the vast lawn of New York’s Central Park, calling for an end to extreme poverty.

Rihanna announced on Friday via Twitter that she had become an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education, which has Gillard as its chairwomen.

It gave the former prime minister the opportunity to tweet a photo of the unusual partnership.

Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation will back the initiative to support 65 developing countries “to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritising the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflicted-affected countries”.

Rihanna headlined the six-hour festival, which also featured performances from Metallica, Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer, Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding, Eddie Vedder, Chris Martin and Yusuf (known as Cat Stevens before his conversion to Islam).

Speeches were made by political leaders and also from actors Salma Hayek, Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra Lee-Furness.
Before the Barbadian singer/songwriter came on stage, Gillard announced the partnership, stating that “education is the best investment we can make for a prosperous, peaceful, equitable and future-ready world” and that she was “thrilled” to be working with Rihanna.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard waits alongside former Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete to speak behind the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park. Picture: AFP / Angela Weiss

Former prime minister Julia Gillard waits alongside former Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete to speak behind the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park. Picture: AFP / Angela WeissSource:AFP

The Global Citizen Festival claimed it has generated more than 7.7 million actions for its causes.

While much of the effort has been about awareness, the latest festival offered several concrete promises.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel pledged two million euros ($2.2 million) by 2019 to fight polio, which has re-emerged in Nigeria after two years.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said The Netherlands would give another $300 million to achieve goals on clean water and toilet access by 2030.

Around a third of the world lacks functioning toilets, a major public health problem with wideranging effects.

Jeff Radebe, minister in the presidency of South Africa, told the festival that his country was committed to ending open defecation by 2030.

Nigeria pledged to do so even sooner, with Environment Minister Amina Mohammed giving a target of 2025.

“This will improve health, create jobs. It will ensure we have dignity for all of our citizens, especially our girls,” she said.

Salma Hayek, left, and Queen Al-Abdullah of Jordan speak to the crowd at the Global Citizen Festival in New York. Picture: AP / Kathy Kmonicek

Salma Hayek, left, and Queen Al-Abdullah of Jordan speak to the crowd at the Global Citizen Festival in New York. Picture: AP / Kathy KmonicekSource:AP

Deborra-Lee Furness speaks at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival. Picture: AFP / Angela Weiss

Deborra-Lee Furness speaks at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival. Picture: AFP / Angela WeissSource:AFP

SDemi Lovato performs at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival. Picture: AFP / Angela Weiss

SDemi Lovato performs at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival. Picture: AFP / Angela WeissSource:AFP

One of the evening’s more unlikely stars, was a six-year-old New York boy named Alex who took the stage, waving with precocious grace.

Alex recently wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to bring “the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria” to his home, promising to care for him.

He was referring to five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was filmed dazed, bloodied and covered in dust after being rescued from the rubble of his family’s home last month.

Obama shared Alex’s letter Monday at a UN summit on refugees as he appealed for more compassion for refugees amid the rise of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other politicians who have advocated closing doors.

Chelsea Handler and Hugh Jackman get the crowd pumped to start the Global Citizen Festival in New York. Picture: AP / Kathy Kmonicek

Chelsea Handler and Hugh Jackman get the crowd pumped to start the Global Citizen Festival in New York. Picture: AP / Kathy KmonicekSource:AP

Refugees from Syria and South Sudan also spoke out at the festival, as well as the widower of Jo Cox, the British politician and human rights activist who was assassinated days before her country’s shock vote to leave the European Union.

“In honour of my wife, I and my family will always stand with refugees,” a poised Brendan Cox said.

On World Toilet Day on November 19, the Global Citizen Festival will hold its first edition in India with headliners including Coldplay and Jay Z.