21 million Signatures Say Cancel The Debts of Poor Contries
Bono has handed over a petition from 21million people to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, part of the campaign to cancel the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries.
The U2 singer has been in New York for the largest ever gathering of Heads of State, the United Nations Millennium Summit.
Joined by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (Chair of the G77) and Ann Pettifor of Jubilee 2000, Bono handed in the petition of signatures from people in 160 different countries. It is believed to be the greatest number of signatures ever collected on one single issue: those who have put their name to it the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Bob Geldof.
The UN Secretary General promised to ensure that debt cancellation would be central to the Millennium Summit talks, where measures to eradicate poverty in the developing world were discussed. He said: Let us, above all, be clear that without a convincing programme of debt relief to start the new millennium, our objective of halving world poverty by 2015 will be only a pipe dream.
The worldwide Jubilee 2000 campaign has succesfully persuaded the richest countries to wipe out $100bn of the estimated $350bn in poor-country debt. But that relief is coming into effect perilously slowly - and campaigners believe rich countries must go further and eliminate the rest.
The only thing that is standing in the way of forgiving this debt is
bureaucracy and red tape, said Bono.
Speaking from a car on his way to the UN headquarters and a private meeting with British PM Tony Blair, he added, Tony Blair is spiritually on side but it is going too slow, we need a new deal on debt. We need it faster. My job is to say, Show me the money; you've told us you're going to give us the money, now where is it?
I have to push Blair to put it higher on the list of priorities and ask him, What is your legacy? What are you leaving behind in this millennium year?
This week Bono is in Washington, on Capitol Hill, lobbying Congress to include debt relief in next year's budget.
Bono has helped us reach a new audience that normally wouldn't be
interested in world economic issues," said Lucy Matthew of Jubilee 2000. When people hear him talk about it, they are surprised because you don't expect a rock star to know the issue inside and out like he does."
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