G8 Response: No Match For Problem, Bono

30 Jun 2002
The scale of the response by the world's most powerful leaders to the crisis in Africa does not match the scale of the problem, says Bono, talking to Peter Mansbridge of CBC TV's The National.

Read highlights of the interview below:

CBC'S PETER MANSBRIDGE: Bono, earlier this year you had hoped that this Kananaskis G-8 could produce the Marshall plan for Africa. You've seen the final communiqué now, is that what you're looking at?

BONO: No. No, I'm not looking at that at all. There are a lot of people's hopes and not dreams but real work dashed here as far as I'm concerned. It was an inspired thing, I think, of Prime Minister Chrétien to have the African leadership present. It was inspired to have as a centerpiece at this year's G-8, but really, what I'm looking at is a lot of rhetoric, a lot of the old numbers just kind of fiddled with.

There is, I mean maybe I'm being disingenuous. I'm feeling disappointed. There is some progress here. There are some smart things on the debt they've done, looking at debt sustainability in this. There's a little bit more money going around, but no, none of the vision we were hoping for. Basically, the scale of the response does not match the scale of the problem.

MANSBRIDGE: Well, what do you think happened here? Where did it break down?

BONO: Well, I don't think Mugabe's efforts helped in Zimbabwe. I mean when you have a crackpot like that, it just reinforces what a lot of people think about Africa, that it's a hopeless case.

But it's not a hopeless case. There is new leadership. There are some great people like Obasanjo, who are there in Kananaskis. There's Thabo Mbeki, even though he's been slow to turn on the AIDS problem, he's a very brilliant man. There is a great new African leadership and they deserved, in my opinion, a new and historic approach to this problem. And you know, it's all our problem.

That's the thing. People say, 'Well why should we care? It's a long way. It's Africa.' And there is some sort of I guess inherent racism in the fact that we can let this problem go on and on and on. But I think also, being fairer, it's more just to do with the fact that people think it's a hopeless case. Well it's not.

MANSBRIDGE: Well, who's not getting it then? You've met with many of these leaders. You've had access, unprecedented really for somebody who's been as concerned about an issue as you have. Who's not getting it?

BONO: You know, they're not bad guys. They're just busy guys. It's just bureaucracy. It's just, it's heart breaking really. I know how much Tony Blair has put into this and Gordon Brown has put into this. I've been on a tour of Africa with the secretary of the treasury of the United States. I'd like to tell you these people are the devil. Well they're not. They're people who want to put this right.

The problem is, when it comes down to it, people are dying for the stupidest of reasons. Money. I mean since last year's Genoa, the G-8 in Genoa, 2.3 million Africans have died of AIDS. I mean there are drugs available. We have interventions that are great advertisements for our ingenuity and innovation in the wealthier countries. They're not getting to the people. They'll always say, 'Oh, the delivery systems aren't in place. It's too difficult' ­ that classic line. Africans don't have wristwatches so they can't take these medications. I've been in Africa. I've been in clinics in South Africa where the nurses and the doctors are saying to us, 'We could do 200 per cent more than we're doing now, if we had the money.' Others saying, 'We could do a thousand per cent more if we (had) the money.' But these are the old excuses and it comes down to money.

MANSBRIDGE: I've got to tell you, you not only sound disappointed, you look disappointed. But one assumes you're not going to give up as a result of this. What happens now?

BONO: No, I think I wanted for especially in Canada, Prime Minister Chrétien said to us a year ago, 'I'm going to give you your voice and I'm going to give you your chance' meaning the movement. And it's a worldwide movement that wants to put the relationship between the developed and the developing countries right. I mean it's a relationship that's been wrong for so long. This is the time and stop.

The message we are trying to get to the politicians is don't move in baby steps. Make a giant leap here. We'll give you the applause. This money that we're asking for, I think they're talking about $6 billion a year en masse if the Americans agree, and that's still I think $24 billion less than what the UN are saying is necessary to deal with AIDS and hunger and starvation in that continent. But $24 billion, it sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of the cost of, for instance, the war in Afghanistan and you realize what happens, it's cheaper to prevent the fires than to put them out. There are another ten Afghanistans potentially in Africa. I just thought they'd have the imagination to make a giant, giant leap here.

MANSBRIDGE: But do you still think that something can happen? You're not going to give up. People who agree with you are not going to give up.

BONO: No, no, we're not going to give up. We're not going to give up. And guess what? It's such a strange panoply of characters here. You have the churches. You have student activists. We're people who don't normally all hang out together. And people are waking up to what George Bush himself described as a genocide, referring to AIDS, and I see us as complicit by our inaction in that genocide. And it's bewildering to me that we're not treating this as an emergency.

I think the penny is slowly dropping. I think people are getting out on the streets. People criticize the anti-globalization people. They feel that they haven't figured out an agenda. There are some nut cases, I agree, out on the streets, but a lot of these people are responding at a gut level to what they see as the ever-widening gap between the richer countries and the poorer countries. In history, within our own borders, we know that when that happens, revolt is around the corner.

Join the campaign against poverty in Africa - DATA has joined with ten other leading anti-poverty organizations to launch as ONE.

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