U2 frontman Bono and Live Aid founder Bob Geldof today (April 27) announced their continuing support of Drop The Debt, a London-based organization committed to raising consciousness and encouraging cr
U2 frontman Bono and Live Aid founder Bob Geldof today (April 27) announced their continuing support of Drop The Debt, a London-based organization committed to raising consciousness and encouraging creditors of African countries to dissolve the current debts held against those countries.
Bono and Geldof joined activist Jeff Sachs and Alabama congressman Spencer Bachus on the conference call, which was organized by grassroots hunger lobby Results as an attempt to bring the crucial issues raised by Drop The Debt and its predecessor, Jubilee 2000, into the public eye.
"It's sad that it takes pictures of pop stars and popes hanging out together to catch people's attention, but we need to explain the drama of this to the American people," Bono said. "[The AIDS pandemic] is the greatest threat to humanity since the bubonic plague killed off millions of people in Europe in the middle ages."
The organization states that 25 million Africans are infected with AIDS, and many of the governments of sub-Saharan countries are paying more money yearly to international creditors, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), than they are for health care within their own nations.
Last year, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the cancellation of 100% of the debts owed to the United States by some of the poorest countries in Africa, and many of the world's other large nations followed suit. But, as Bono, Geldof, Sachs, and Bachus explained, this great step forward only served to reduce the collective debt of the sub-Saharan countries by about 25%. The remaining debt is mostly owed to institutions like the World Bank and the IMF.
Said Geldof, who had just returned from South Africa where he met with President Nelson Mandela, "There is little chance of progress within those nations if they are not allowed to invest in their own people ... I've been going to Africa for many years now and have seen endless catastrophes." Geldof added that a recent Drop The Debt-funded study by a respected British accounting firm showed that the World Bank and the IMF "can easily meet the 100% debt relief [for those nations]."
Geldof organized Live Aid in the mid-'80s, using the celebrity pulpit of musicians to help raise awareness and money for relief of famine in Africa. As the Drop The Debt Web site points out, the $200 million that Live Aid has raised to date is equal to the amount of debt these African nations now collectively re-pay every week.
Bono said he sees this crisis as one of the biggest issues in human history. "By the year 2010," he said, "there will be 40 million AIDS orphans in Africa." He explained that though the cancellation of debts by the U.S. and other countries in response to Jubilee 2000 was a huge victory, it still falls far short of solving the problem or eradicating these countries' debt. "The scale of the problem does not match the scale of the response," he said.
To find out more about the issues raised by Drop The Debt, visit the organization's web site, or the Results web site.