Excerpts and Remarks by Bono, Jeffrey Sachs, and Mark Malloch Brown Global Launch of the 2003 Human Development Report Government Buildings, Dublin Tuesday, 8th July 2003
Question: Do you believe that enough is being done in relation to what's happening in the Congo? The question I want to ask you, are we doing enough on it as an international community?
Bono: The answer's obvious. But the question why is perhaps more interesting. Why we're not doing anything about is I think related to the failure of us to understand the African continent itself, and their own tribal differences and I think what happened in Rwanda is ... should be brought up again and again and again. Things are going to be very interesting when American troops arrive in Liberia, which I think is likely. One of the most striking things will be, you'll have the first U.S. soldiers to die of malaria, for the first time in 25 years, since Vietnam. Suddenly our talk about the Global Health Fund, for T.B., malaria as well as AIDS will take on a whole new meaning. Malaria's an extraordinary thing, malaria kills as many people as AIDS every day on the continent of Africa. So I think what the Congo illustrates also, and Liberia, is that there is absolutely no way that we can escape the repercussions of what goes on in Africa, in disease or in political conflict. We can't ... there isn't a wall we can build high enough, and there ... it's not an option to ignore the problem that's going on in the Congo.
Uganda also provides an incredible example of how to tackle the AIDS pandemic. So it's very unfortunate, all this trouble, it's kind of ... Uganda was one country that we could point to and say, look, if you take on AIDS, you can reduce prevalence down to I think five percent it is now, zero prevalence in Uganda, so that's ... it's all the more important what happens in the Congo because of them as an example.
Question: Bono said, it's obvious that he's very angry about the world's neglect of Africa and the fact that these targets are not going to be achieved in Africa. But what is ... has he got a benchmark or a threshold for world leaders that they can know when he's going to stop loving them, and turn mean and nasty and take off his suit and start the civil disobedience? In other words, I just would like some clarity as, what is the target for them, conscious that President Bush has started a tour to Africa at the moment?
Bono: Dying to get out of this suit. (Laughter) What I was really trying to get across to you is my frustration with rhetoric and dialogue, which I think we've been quite good at. We have, working with the Americans, achieved what some people thought were impossible. A Republican President is in the air, or has landed, in Africa as we speak. And they have doubled their contributions to foreign assistance. And that still leaves them a long way off point-seven. Point-seven, I think there's 60 billion in the difference. We could do with that. (Laughs) Getting the United States to point-seven is ... sounds far fetched, but even to point-three, I'll be very, very happy with. And with regards to our own government, I think point-seven is a good measure of whether we're taking this problem serious or not, and whether I am being taken the piss off. And that's how we judge it. We have an actual measurement, that's what this is about, this Report. And ... but it's really important to stress that they really are achievable. It's not ... they're not fanciful ideas in this Report. They're achievable, they're doable, we can afford them. And there will come a time, and the closer we get to 2015 is, to answer your question, if in the next year or two we do not see significant changes, and significant ... incremental but significant rise in contributions, I think then we do have to call off what will then have been a charade, which is the dialogue between activists and politicians, where we accept that they are very serious about these issues.
Question: Bono, I'm just a bit puzzled when you said that tackling corruption is their problem. I wonder who they are? Is the whole question of corruption not a much wider question for the whole community and for the whole world in fact, about where the money is going, is it being used properly? And I just wondered, has Mister Malloch Brown a comment to make on that as well?
Bono: Yeah, you're right about that. That's a ... that was ... I think we all have to take responsibility about this, this issue of corruption….. We can't do anything in Africa whilst ... when the monies are, as a Congressman from Alabama said to me, "goin' down a rat hole". And the standard argument that we would meet on Capitol Hill is, we're not giving you any more money, because those people are buying Gulfstreams, and the money's going down a rat hole. And we started to realize that aid itself has a credibility problem. The word assistance in the United States has a credibility problem. So we've started to use words like investment, and we have to be very demanding of transparency and accountability before monies go out. Oddly enough, with regards to Uganda, there's one of the better examples of ... they have a thing called the Poverty Action Fund, where they've ring-fenced monies that were freed up from debt cancellation and other places. And they, with some difficulty, have allowed civil society to read those figures. And you can watch if the school isn't being built when it says ... where it says it's being built, and the local people are held accountable. This is very difficult for a government, a sovereign government to sort of allow this kind of access to the way they spend money. But I do think it's the future, and I do think we will certainly free up a lot more funds if people are very clear that the money is being spent well.
Mark Malloch Brown: I would just echo that. I mean, you can not ask an Irish government to increase its development assistance to nought-point-seven without people such as myself being absolutely vigorous in ensuring that development assistance is well spent. But you know, corruption takes two sides, and I think in a sense, the move by various corporations to join up with the publish what you pay and global witness efforts to kind of cut corruption out of perhaps the most lucrative area of corruption in Africa, which is oil wealth and diamond wealth, is absolutely critical. It takes all of us to be very rigorous, and it takes ultimately African leaders to, by their own example and through the reform of their own governments, to show that they recognize that the tax payer euro of Irish citizens is something they receive in sacred trust to spend effectively, and not to waste. Because, you know, corruption is a cancer both for confidence in development assistance, or as Bono and I both call it, investment. And secondly, it's a cancer in developing countries themselves. It quickly destroys trust between voters and people and their governments, so it has to be ... we have to do everything to remove it.
Question: Bono expressed some frustration, and what I'd like to ask Bono and the others is we're here in government buildings now and the Report is being launched, it makes it very clear that the trade barriers that exist, subsidies and protections that are in place for Irish farmers and European farmers and western farmers, if they continue to exist, as they are, then they'll make many of the goals, the proposals in the Report, an elaborate waste of time. I wonder what Bono might have to say to the Taoiseach, for instance, at the next opportunity that presents itself for him to go to Europe and discuss CAP, for instance,…. If something like CAP remains in place in its current form, nothing's going to change in Africa.
Bono: That's right. Africans would prefer trade to aid, that's absolutely clear. And they want ... they want to be in charge of the rebuilding of their countries and their economies. And trade is by far the best way for them to get out of their present difficulties. It's a shock when you discover that the poorest of the poor are not allowed to put their products on our shelves, and yet, you know, we pass the plate at Sunday Mass. There's something obscene about that. The thing about subsidies, it's a complex one. But I think the striking thing, for me, who's just getting to grips with it, was whether a fairer ... you know, we're all working towards a fairer trade policies, but if you look at the structure of IMF loans and indeed World Bank loans, a lot of them have denied Africans the same kind of subsidies, subsidizing of their agriculture, et cetera, that we hold tightly to in CAP. That's the real ... there's the justice issue again. There's where you're really not being serious, where front of house, you're there, you know, with your solemn face and we really care about those African kids, and their clean water. And then back stage, where we have these agreements which actually keep them in bondage. It's difficult, though. It's very difficult when you see Irish farmers, how hard they work, and I'll tell you it's the one area, I'm fairly unembarrassable, but I find it very hard to speak about these issues, because I'm very conscious that I am not working as hard as most Irish farmers in my life. And so I'm not really the best person to answer this, because I know it's a thorny issue, and progress was made only a few weeks ago, and they've actually made a breakthrough, conceptually, on dismantling the links between production and subsidy, but they haven't nailed it down. Is there somebody else who could speak to that end, maybe ...
Mark Malloch Brown: Well, I will. I think then ... maybe Jeff will want to say that it's aid and trade. But trade doesn't initially buy you education and health care. You need public investment for that. Later, when the economy grows and tax receipts increase, it does. But I would just echo Bono's point that, you know, I think this is an issue, embarrass him though it does, it will be one he'll probably end up having to take his jacket off on. Because this is going to be tough. It is going to have to be fought. Because if DOHAdoesn't end up being a development round, we've missed a critical, critical kind of hoop we have to get through, to get where we want to be by 2015. But I think the pressure is moving people. Evian, there were some very embarrassed G8 leaders, because there was a lot of public pressure on them on trade, and every time they hear that every cow in Europe gets a two and a half dollar subsidy, when half of Africa lives on less than a dollar a day. Or that the U.S. gives big corporate cotton farmers three times the amount in subsidies that it provides in aid to Africa, removing that cotton market from African small farmers, you know, it pushes the needle. And a bit like debt relief started, and land mines started, I think you're seeing a groundswell. But the solution, as Bono says, will not be to destroy the farming economy of Ireland at the expense of Africa. It is this disconnecting subsidies from ... trying to move to a framework where countries can make some choices about the way of life they wish to preserve, but not at the expense of removing markets from the poor farmers of the world, and we've just got to forge a public policy which manages both those interests in a much more balanced way than is today the case.
Question: Tom Kitt was talking earlier about having changed the name of Ireland Aid to Development Cooperation Ireland in order to get the message out to the Irish people, to a greater extent, about the realities of what's going on and what we're doing. I was wondering, Bono, if you had any advice for him, in terms of how do you get this message of, this is the most dramatic and most important moral and political issue facing humanity in this age? Somehow we don't seem to have gotten that very, very crucial message that I agree is ... I agree absolutely with you. We're just not getting it across to people, to our own people. And if we did, the pressure that Mister Malloch Brown is talking about would be much, much easier to exert.
Bono: Well, the media definitely helps. But I think also there's a role for the churches to play, particularly in Ireland. And just from my own lessons working in the U.S., where we had a strong student activist movement, but not at the level we needed to really make great changes. Because politicians get used to student activists and rock stars hanging out together. The people they're really afraid of are soccer moms and church folk. Now, when soccer moms and church folk start hanging out with rock stars and student activists, (Laughs), people get really nervous. And I think that's what we've got to do in Ireland, is get the ... take ... learn from the lessons of what we did in the U.S. Engage that sleeping giant, and put it to work. You know, it was an extraordinary thing to walk into churches and see the Jubilee 2000 Dove. I know a lot of people started to think about the millennium, associated with some of these ideas that they'd heard about in schools and through the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church has a lot to offer here, and a lot of experience here. And though there are thorny issues for it like contraception and stuff like that, I think the Church has a lot to offer, in bringing some real weight to this, and just engaging everyday people. And I like Tom Kitt's analogy of the Special Olympics, which was really an extraordinary thing to just have been a part of, and just to see how people feel more Irish, the more connected they are with the outside world. It seems part of our make up. Jeff, would you speak just ... the U.S. example?
Jeffrey Sachs: Well, I'd like to say a word to the media, which is that, suppose tomorrow you ran a headline, that 15 thousand innocent people died yesterday, for no reason? And then you ran it again the next day? Fifteen thousand innocent people died for no reason. Suppose you had a special section that you had the pictures of all those people, like they did in the New York Times after September 11th, for three thousand people that died innocently that day? But today, 15 thousand innocent people will die in Africa. Innocent, because they won't be able to get quinine to stay alive from a bout of totally treatable malaria. Because no one's giving them anti-retroviral medicines, because Africans haven't been deemed worth a dollar a day to the world, leaving behind 15 million orphaned children to this point. You could run that headline every day. And you should. These people happen to be the most voiceless, faceless, powerless people in the world. But they're dying nonetheless, and they're people nonetheless. And the more you look at the situation, and the more you visit these people, as I have done day in, day out and many times with Bono, and you look into the eyes of dying people, and you go to so-called medical wards, which are misnamed, because there's no medicine in them, because there's no money for the medicine. And you realize if you do the professional analysis, which is what I do and what Sakiko does for a living, that these are totally solvable problems. And that when one cuts through all of the clichés like the corruption cliché, and gets down to the core of the issues, that we're letting millions of people die every year for absolutely no reason. We said we weren't going to do that after World War Two. We said we weren't going to do that again after Rwanda. We've launched a whole war on terrorism after three thousand people died in the U.S., but eight million people died last year unnecessarily, because they couldn't get the drugs. People don't know these things. This corruption issue, yeah, there's an issue there. But it's an issue because people don't understand often that Africa isn't one country, it's 49 countries, and there are corrupt countries in Africa, and there are perfectly well governed countries in Africa that are just dying of their poverty, not of their corruption. And I happen to come from a country where there's corruption too in government. It's everywhere. So we have to cut through the myths. And the media can help. We need that headline tomorrow. Fifteen thousand innocent people died. Believe me, if dozens of 747s simultaneously crashed, it would be headlines in your paper. But we can't seem to get the story that 15 thousand people died yesterday because for pennies on our hundreds of dollars we couldn't get the help. And that's what we're after here. And the more deeply you look at it, and the more professionally you look at it, and the more rigorously you look at it, it's not that it becomes colder, it becomes hotter. Because when you look with all the knowledge, all you see in the end is absolutely unmitigated, unjustified death. That's what your most hardcore, professional analysis tells you. That this world has the most incredible capacity to turn aside to mass death, even though every day we say we don't. And that's what this Report is really about when you get through the very calm, of the dispassionate analysis, it's that you could save millions of lives every year, and this is the world we need to live in, not only for our hearts but for our security. It's no accident we're going into Liberia. It's no accident that the Congo is in disruption. It's no accident that a continent besieged with mass death and disease, and soils that aren't being replenished of nutrients right now and climate that doesn't support a supportable agriculture unless we help them with improved technologies, is going to be massively disrupted and Europe and the United States and everyone else is going to continue to feel it. But the incredible, incredible result of analysis is, it would take us so little to do. And just to conclude, sorry, if the United States would do what Ireland has pledged to do, to rise to zero-point-seven of one percent of GNP, that would be an extra 60 billion dollars a year from where we are right now. So what I would beg this country to do, follow through on your words, and then become a country filled with Bono's, to go and say to the United States, we're doing it, you're part of the same world, you need to do it too. That's where your missing money is. Because with the extra 60 billion from the U.S. and what Ireland and others are going to put in, we wouldn't be struggling for the three billion that we need committed next week in Paris at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, T.B. and Malaria. Where maybe we'll find excuses to let millions of people die some more, or maybe we'll find this tremendously tiny amount of money to actually get the job done.
Question: I'm an Irishman living in South Africa, and building some houses in townships over there. And most of the money I'm putting in is my own, but I've had the experience of trying to extract money from Irish people to actually help with the project. And when you mention the figure, earlier on the Taoiseach mentioned, a trillion plus dollars on defense spending, would the panel support and a direct levy on some of the people who are part ... of the industries that are part of the problems in Africa, such as a direct levy on production on the weapons industry for all production made, and also a direct levy on the western pharmaceutical companies on all production, you know, generated over here, which I'm sure would generate a lot more than the 50 billion needed?
Jeffrey Sachs: We need something like five cents out of every ... we need something ... let me put it a different way. We need something like 50 cents out of every hundred dollars of our income from the rich world, to end absolute poverty. That's the scale that we're talking about, this is the shocking dichotomy between the suffering and how easy it would be to do. And that 50 cents could come from many places. We probably don't need to have raised our military spending in the United States more than a hundred billion dollars a year in the last three years. More than a hundred billion dollars a year, and we're struggling to find a few billion dollars to help people stay alive. When we've signed up many times to ... trying to reach that zero-point-seven of one percent goal, which would be an extra 60 billion. We cut in the United States, by the way, taxes on the order of about 300 billion dollars a year, and then we say, well, we don't have money for development assistance. That's our country. Every country needs to find its own answers to the question. But the point is, what's needed is so tiny compared to our means that it takes the most incredibly elaborate excuses to find ways not to find it. And direct levies could be one way, but a normal tax system would be another way.