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"As a performer, I understand it takes a picture of me with the Pope or a president to get debt cancellation onto the front pages. Otherwise it's just too obscure a melody line."

-- Bono

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Poverty campaign inspires new U2 song, says Bono

Reuters, October 22, 2008
By: Lesley Wroughton

 

When 116 million people recently stood up against worldwide poverty, their coordinated cry failed to make big headlines -- but they did inspire Irish rocker and activist Bono to write a new song for his group U2.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Bono said the Stand Up and Take Action campaign in 131 countries had moved him to start creating a song called "Stand Up."

"It's not finished yet but it's inspired by this concept of stand up. It's a little diamond, though," Bono said, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles.

"It's not a 'let's hold hands and the world is a better place sort of song.' It's more kick down the door of your own hypocrisy," he said.

Organizers said the 116 million people who called on global leaders not to forget their promise to reduce world poverty and hunger by 2015, represented nearly two percent of the world's population and was a Guinness World Record "for the biggest mass mobilization on a single issue."

World leaders set a series of agreed targets on poverty, education, health, equality and malnutrition known as Millennium Development Goals or MDGs, eight years ago.

But developing countries fear rich nations will use the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as an excuse to scale down their promises.

African leaders have already accused rich donor nations of not keeping to their aid commitments, which has become critical to combat the effects of higher world food prices.

"Although they were not a legal contract, and we wish they were, there is a moral contract that was made," Bono said.

"To break a promise to yourself, to your partner, to your family, a politician to his constituents, are all bad things to do -- but it's a heinous crime to make a promise to the poorest most vulnerable people on earth and break it. That's just not acceptable," he said.

He said while the MDGs may be "the worst acronym in the history of activism," the Stand Up and Take Action events around the world on Oct. 17 to 19 showed that people knew what they stand for.

"The numbers show that people are aware that those promises were made and why politicians can't think 'oh we can get away with it because no one really knows about it'" Bono said.

For years, Bono has used his celebrity to raise money and draw attention to global poverty and highlight how aid, when used properly, can help prevent and treat diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS.

"It is dreadful to think that we could take the foot off the pedal at our end and they run out of road on theirs," he said of concerns that less aid will slow Africa's progress.

Still, Bono said the region had demonstrated significant economic potential after several years of strong economic growth, led by a new generation of leaders.

"I have faith in Africans who are becoming very adept at this balancing act between necessary aid flows and realizing that business, commerce and investment can take you out of catastrophe," said Bono.



© Reuters, 2008.

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