GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—According to a study released Monday by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 4.2 billion people—a full 70 percent of the planet's inhabitants—could use an all-star benefit concert.
"Whether ravaged by war, disease, natural disaster, or just plain grinding poverty, there are a whole heck of a lot of people out there in desperate need of a star-studded fundraiser at Madison Square Garden," ECOSOC president Martin Belinga-Eboutou said. "Or, if not that, a Quincy Jones-produced remake of 'What's Going On' featuring everyone from P. Diddy to 'N Sync to U2's Bono."
Belinga-Eboutou pointed to the recent success of Concert For New York City, a five-and-a-half-hour extravaganza featuring such superstars as Elton John, Mick Jagger, Backstreet Boys, Paul McCartney, and Destiny's Child, among others. Earnings from the benefit, which aired on VH1 and will soon be released as a double-disc CD, are expected to surpass the $150 million raised in last month's all-star America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon.
"If we could get something like that going in the 315,583 places on the globe the U.N. has identified as 'in crisis,' we'd really have something," Belinga-Eboutou said.
Belinga-Eboutou cited Gujarat, the Indian state where a January earthquake killed an estimated 100,000 people and left nearly one million homeless, as an example of a region that could use a night of star-studded "compassiontainment."
"If Jerry Seinfeld could see it in his heart to toss off a few of his trademark observational one-liners for the needy people of Gujarat, it would greatly alleviate the suffering they have endured," Belinga-Eboutou said. "And the rock stylings of a reunited Who would be much appreciated, as well."
Last week, the U.N. established an exploratory committee to begin the arduous task of assigning stars to the world's trouble spots. However, with the ratio of needy locales to bankable stars standing at 4,390 to 1, an estimated 800 two-hour concerts per celebrity would be required over the next year to set things right in the world. These figures are also contingent upon no further natural or man-made catastrophes occurring during that time period.
Though only in its initial stages, the deployment of stars has already begun. Last week, R&B sensation Pink was dispatched to Indonesia to raise money for the families of the 350 asylum-seeking refugees who drowned in an overcrowded boat last month, while Arista recording artist Dido is slated to perform Nov. 27 in war-torn Macedonia. In addition, the '80s new-wave band Soft Cell has agreed to reunite for three December shows in AIDS-ravaged South Africa.
New York concert promoter Ron Delsener, who is in talks to organize more than 22,000 relief concerts on behalf of the U.N., said the logistical problems such a humanitarian effort would present are considerable.
"There just aren't any adequate venues for, say, an Ozzy Osbourne show in Sierra Leone," Delsener said. "No stadiums, no arenas, not even a large auditorium. And have you ever tried tracking down a pyrotechnics expert with a union card in sub-Saharan Africa? It's practically impossible."
Delsener also noted that the cost of providing adequate security at such a concert would be greater than the gross national product of the nation in need.
Despite such challenges, Third World leaders are urging musicians to do whatever they can.
"It is up to each and every star to pitch in," said Nicaraguan president José Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, whose drought-ravaged country will soon receive help in the form of Eagle-Eye Cherry. "From heavy hitters such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen to young upstarts like Macy Gray, the world needs all the singers it can get."
The world's impoverished received more good news Monday, when George Harrison, whose 1971 Concert For Bangladesh was the first all-star fundraiser, said plans are underway for a follow-up show.
"I've already talked to Ringo [Starr] and Eric Clapton, and Tom Petty appears to be interested, too," Harrison said. "The Concert For Bangladesh was such a big success, there's no reason to think that this upcoming Concert For Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, The Philippines, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe won't be just as great."