The European Commission doesn’t need Donald Trump. It has Miley Cyrus.
The U.S. president hasn’t joined the EU’s global fundraising drive to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but Cyrus and other American celebrities and big-name philanthropists are now on board as the EU-led push to raise money for tests, therapies and vaccines shifts into its second phase.
So far, the Commission’s Coronavirus Global Response has raised €9.8 billion, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Thursday that the EU would partner with Global Citizen, the New York-headquartered worldwide anti-poverty movement, to initiate the campaign’s second phase, called “Global Goal: Unite For Our Future.”
The goal now is to raise donations from everyone — not just major countries and philanthropists — to help find diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to fight coronavirus. The second big pledging event will be hosted on June 27.
“This is the only way to overcome this pandemic and to avoid another,” von der Leyen said. “Everyone can contribute to life-saving medical innovation, to make coronavirus history and to make history in uniting the world.”
Despite criticism that the first pledging drive mostly re-counted old money, the campaign has been an indicator that the Commission — rather than the U.S. — is stepping up as the leader to rally countries to a global coronavirus response and prevent a brawl over access to badly needed medical innovation.
In her announcement, von der Leyen said the second phase has 15 countries partnering as co-sponsors: Austria; Belgium; Canada; France; Germany; Italy; Mexico; Morocco; New Zealand; Norway; Saudi Arabia; South Africa; Spain; the United Arab Emirates; and the U.K.
Although the list is still missing the U.S., it does have plenty of celebrities. Actor Hugh Jackman, comedian Chris Rock and pop stars Justin Bieber and Shakira are all on the roster with Cyrus, along with billionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg to “help rally citizens to the cause.”
The Commission also released a more detailed breakdown of the €9.8 billion the coronavirus pledge drive raised. But it’s still unclear how much represents new money as the pledges included money spent by governments dating back to January 30.
Still, much of today’s announcement emphasized the anticipated coronavirus vaccine — there are currently 100 projects in development.
Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, spoke in a video today — following statements by Jackman and Cyrus — to say that a working vaccine could be ready by January 2021.
“That would make it the fastest vaccine ever created in human history,” Gates said. “But we also have to ask: What good is this vaccine if we can’t get it to all the people in the world?”
Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar echoed the need for a vaccine, saying it is the “the only exit strategy from this crisis.”
Sarah Wheaton contributed reporting.