May 2006 Archives

Frontline (The Age of AIDS) Interview: Bono

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PBS, May 30, 2006

Bono, née Paul Hewson, is the lead singer of the rock band U2. Throughout his career, he has involved himself in humanitarian causes; in 1997 he began working on debt relief for Africa and in 2002 he formed DATA, a nonprofit organization that stands for Debt AIDS Trade Africa. Here, he explains how his AIDS activism became an extension of that work. He also talks about his alliance with evangelical Christians: "I think [that] of evangelicals polled in 2000, only 6 percent felt it incumbent upon them to respond to the AIDS emergency," he explains. "I was deeply offended by that, so I asked to meet with as many church leaders as I could, and used examples from the Scriptures. 'Isn't this the leprosy of our age?' I argued. 'Isn't this what the Christ spent his time with?'" Bono also recounts his efforts lobbying former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) with biblical verses and his meetings with President George W. Bush, including "a good old row" about the speed at which antiretroviral drugs were being delivered to Africa under the president's $15 billion plan. "How we respond to the AIDS emergency will describe us for posterity," he tells Frontline. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Dec. 9, 2005.

On Last Africa Stop, Bono Pledges Fight Over Trade

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ACCRA -- After a successful campaign to cancel the debts of some of the world's poorest countries, rocker-activist Bono is about to take on the world's powerbrokers to improve the terms of trade for Africa.

On the last stop of a six-nation African tour, Bono said on Wednesday there was a new mood of optimism on the continent and new entrepreneurs were emerging, but farm subsidies and other trade barriers in large markets like the United States and Europe were blocking progress.

In an interview with Reuters, Bono said he recognized taking on the trade issue on behalf of Africa was not going to be easy.

"We're up against vested interests and big powerful lobby groups," he said after touring a market in the capital Accra.

He also said he and other trade activists would need to get better at explaining to U.S. and European farmers how their agricultural subsidies were hurting African producers.

Bono hopes his involvement will help give Africa a voice at the World Trade Organization's global Doha Round of talks, currently stalled over agricultural issues.

"The social movements will give us political muscle and that makes it doable, but it is going to be a big fight," he added.

Bono urges Africa to tackle corruption

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By Lesley Wroughton

ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) - The recent goodwill of wealthy industrialized countries toward Africa could dissipate unless the continent tackles corruption, rock star and activist Bono told African finance ministers on Sunday.

"There is a window of opportunity but it could close if things like the corruption issue are not tackled or the peer review mechanisms are not felt to be real," the U2 frontman said in the Nigerian capital Abuja in one of his first speeches that emphasized malfeasance on the continent.

"The single biggest obstacle to business and the renewal of the economies in the south is corruption and the single biggest obstacle to getting start-up money for those businesses, if you want to look at aid as investment, is corruption."

Rich nations pledged last year to double aid to Africa by 2010 and cancel debts of some poorest countries, but Bono said those promises could be withdrawn if recipient governments weren't clean.

"The small 'c' in corruption is a plague as deadly as the HIV virus and it is not just the businessman, the ones that are hurt the most are always the ones that have nothing," he said.

Bono heads back to Africa to see progress, needs

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By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Irish rocker and activist Bono is taking his crusade for Africa on the road.

U2's lead singer will tour Lesotho, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali and Ghana on a 10-day trip starting on Tuesday to examine how his successful campaign for debt relief can now help combat poverty and disease, his advocacy group DATA said on Thursday.

The tour comes four years after Bono focused the world's attention on Africa's plight when he and then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill traveled around the continent to highlight the need for Western governments to increase aid and erase poor countries' debt burdens.

Bono is credited with spearheading the successful campaign to erase the debts of poor countries, with world leaders praising his effort to learn the issues and be a constructive participant in policymaking.

In June the Group of Eight industrialized countries, meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, agreed to cancel the debts of 18 low-income countries, most of them in Africa, to free up resources to tackle poverty.

The G-8 powers also pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010 to about $47 billion.

Much has changed since Bono's trip with O'Neill in 2002. The continent is enjoying its best growth rates in more than 30 years, due not only to a boom in global commodity prices but also to improvements in government economic policies and fewer conflicts.

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Rock star and activist Bono expressed hope Thursday that a peace agreement could be coming for the Sudanese region of Darfur.

"We just got news on this very day that there's a potential breakthrough," Bono said during a speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. "I ask you to pray for their success."

Decades of tribal clashes over land and water in Darfur erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003, with rebels demanding regional autonomy. The central government is accused of responding by unleashing militias upon civilians, a charge that Sudan denies.

At least 180,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been forced to flee their homes in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Sudanese rebels cautiously welcomed U.S.-backed proposals to salvage a peace agreement for Darfur on Thursday. The international community urged them to finally accept the deal.

About 2,000 people attended the sold-out annual dinner, which was open only to club members and their guests. Tickets cost $150 each. Past speakers include former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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