Global Launch of the 2003 Human Development Report Government Buildings, Dublin Tuesday, 8th July 2003
I don't have a speech, but I rant quite well. But I've only really one thing to say about the UNDP Report, now I'll get to that. First I thought the best thing that I could is just talk a little bit about the people in the room, and ... because I'm very conscious of the fact that a lot of people in the room here are the professionals, the people whose life and ... their professional lives, their time away from their families, whatever, are bound up in these ideas, and they're doing extraordinary things. I'd like to first thank President Chissano of Mozambique, whom I've met, and who was very, very kind to me when I met him, and let me in.
In a way that takes great humility for the President of an extraordinary nation like Mozambique, to let in an Irish rock star and to talk about such serious issues as the life and death of his people and the prosperity of his country. Then also to Taoiseach I would like to say that there's an extraordinary role here that he's carving out for Ireland. And it's a role that Britain would like, it's a role that France would like, which is to be some kind of interface between the north and the south, between the developed world and the developing world. But I think Ireland is a better place to be that interface, not least because we were a part of that developing world not too long ago, something that I don't think we have forgotten, and we certainly shouldn't.
And the crushing poverty that faces so much of Africa we faced not too long ago. And I think whether it's folk memory or whatever you want to call it, we're very well placed here to understand and to enjoy the energy of that relationship, because I think the developing world in the future is going to be very ... you know, it is the future. And India, when you see the way India's going in tech and things like that, Africa will follow suit. And also I suppose the tradition we've had with ... I suppose the churches and missions and people, wherever you go in Africa there are nuns, Irish nuns, jumping out of the bushes. (Laughter)
Jumped on me on more than a few occasions. (Laughter) And have had me back in their hospitals and in their grass huts and it's ... it's a fright. (Laughter) Tough, tough, tough women and men, Irishmen out there, and so I do think we have a chance for ... to be a special interface. But that's going to cost us, and it's not just going to cost us the kind of commitment that Bertie just made in the last days, which is really something that makes me very proud. But it's going to cost us some unpopularity, it's going to cost him some unpopularity at home. And the dealing with the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). So serious, serious Irish jobs, Irish lives are going to be affected by decisions made to reorganize the relationship that we have with the poorest of the poor, and this is just the facts.
But it's the right thing to do, very hard to reach a rock star to talk about it, but he's the boss and he's going to have to, and it sounds like he wants to. And ... but there's a cost if we want that relationship in Ireland. And Tom Kitt had hard shoes to fill with ... we had a great relationship with Liz O'Donnell, and she fought for that point-seven percent, and that's the reason why we're proud ... I'm proud, and that's the reason why this conference is here, is because of hers and Tom's and the Taoiseach's commitment to that point-seven. So that's just ... because this is a very ... this is a remarkable moment and it's happening in Dublin, we should be proud of that.
Mark Malloch Brown is one of the people whom I talk about when I say that their every waking moment is involved in this. When I'm in the recording studio, or off in the south of France drinking very nice rose, as I was last week, he's working on these things. And to be in the bureaucracy of these things is just mind numbing. And one of the things about Mark is he's ... what he's trying to do is to find a melody line for the U.N. on this, that people can follow. Because we all just nod off at the statistics. And so he is trying to redescribe the U.N., under Kofi Annan's leadership, as something we all feel a part of, and engaged with, and that's a very, very important role.
Also, Mary Robinson being here, she's a real inspiration to me, and there's one thing I'd like to say about all of this, which is, she speaks of these issues as human rights. The right to live like a human is really what we're talking about. The right to live like a human. And it makes me ill and nervous when I hear people talk about these issues as charity. We never argued debt relief as a charity issue. We argued it as a justice issue. It is impossible to justify holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents, often debts that were taken out for Cold War reasoning and dodgy donors, lenders as well as borrowers. But that's a justice issue.
Not giving drugs to people that really ... that are ... easily manufactured. The research and the development is expensive, but there ... the cost of manufacture of these anti-retroviral drugs is not that much. And we can afford it. And this is a justice issue, this is not a charity issue. And I've always picked that up. That's the line I've always picked up from Mary Robinson. Now somebody else is here who really gave me my education in all of this, was one of the first people I went to, which is Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who was at Harvard, but is now at Columbia, at the Earth Institute. And he's again one of those people, his whole life and times are bound up in these ideas, and he fights for it like he's fighting for his life. But here's the melody line I picked up from Jeff, Jeff's pitch really is just that it's possible. When I went in to see him and I said, I don't want to invest my constituency, which is music people in a fight that is some airy-fairy or not well thought out. On debt cancellation, I want to know the arguments, pro's and con's, and he said, this is ... it's not just doable, it's affordable, and it's necessary. And that really ... and then he kind of introduced me to the manuscripts and the men and women that would help us with our campaign.
But that spirit, that everything is possible, is what I'd really like to pick out from today. This is the first generation that can actually eliminate absolute poverty from the planet. This is the first generation that can afford it, because of the wealth of the ... the wealthy countries. It's also, we can afford it because India and China are making such progress, and it would have cost inordinate sums, I've got some notes here. It would have cost about like five to ten percent of our GNP in the past. Now it's point-seven, or certainly one, we can actually transform the lives and the real lives of people living in absolute poverty. That's just an extraordinary thing, to be around at that time, and I for one am not going to let it pass.
And this for me is an issue of equality. And as absurd as it looked in the ... when you look back and think of women without the vote, or blacks in the United States not being given equality, we ... this will ... it will look that absurd in years to come, that we could let seven thousand Africans die every day for medicines we take for granted. So it's an equality issue for me. Do we really believe that everybody is equal in God's eyes? Do we really believe everybody's equal in our own eyes? Because if we do, we're going to take this Report very, very seriously.
And the part in the Report I want to talk about that really set me going is regarding Africa. Because you know, some aspects of the Millennium Development Goals are doing very well, but some are not. And I read in the Report that really when we're dealing with Africa, having hunger in Africa, we've lost that battle by 2015. The year 2050 is more realistic for reaching the goals, for Africans. Two-thousand-one-hundred on hunger, 2165 before we cut child mortality by two-thirds, and 2129 before we can get universal primary education.
Now I intend to live a very long time, (Laughs), some of you will be sad to hear, (Scattered Laughter), and I'm going to be a real pain in the arse about this for the rest of my life. But I'm not prepared to be the generation ... to be part of the generation that missed that opportunity. I am not prepared. And I want to just set people on notice, that the people that I represent, the activists, the people from my community, will take a very, very different tack in the next few years if ... if these trends are to continue in Africa. Good policies, tackling corruption, that's their problem. But let it not be our problem, that we haven't given people the support they needed, and we will take a much more aggressive campaign, I for one am taking off my suit, (Laughs), and I'm ... I am ready to march with my activist friends, to begin campaigns of civil disobedience, we are about to get very noisy, we are about to bang a lot of dust bin lids. This issue is the defining issue of our time, and some of us are ready to really go to work on it, but none as hard as the ones I've introduced you to today, and I just want to end by saying thank you, and to Sakiko, who authored this Report, and it's an extraordinary thing that she's done because it gives me a chance to rant with some back up. (Scattered Laughter) / (Applause)