Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bards of the Powerful

/ pro / bono / apologetics
George Monbiot is alarmed at Bob Geldof's and Bono's assuming the mantle of debt-relief potentates, for the people and instead of the people.
"...The real danger at the G8 summit is not that the protests will turn violent – the appetite for that pretty well disappeared in September 2001 – but that they will be far too polite.

Let me be more precise. The danger is that we will follow the agenda set by Bono and Bob Geldof.

The two musicians are genuinely committed to the cause of poverty reduction. They have helped secure aid and debt relief packages worth billions of dollars. They have helped to keep the issue of global poverty on the political agenda. They have mobilised people all over the world. These are astonishing achievements, and it would be stupid to disregard them.

The problem is that they have assumed the role of arbiters: of determining on our behalf whether the leaders of the G8 nations should be congratulated or condemned for the decisions they make. They are not qualified to do so, and I fear that they will sell us down the river.

Take their response to the debt relief package for the world’s poorest countries that the G7 finance ministers announced ten days ago. Anyone with a grasp of development politics who had read and understood the ministers’ statement could see that the conditions it contains – enforced liberalisation and privatisation – are as onerous as the debts it relieves... But Bob Geldof praised it as “a victory for the millions of people in the campaigns around the world”,... and Bono pronounced it “a little piece of history”... Like many of those – especially the African campaigners I know – who have been trying to highlight the harm done by such conditions, I feel betrayed by these statements. Bono and Geldof have made our job more difficult..."

Monbiot has written about the G7 debt-relief offer and has decried it as "...little better than an extortion racket". The Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt is similarly unimpressed by the gesture...

South African activists Patrick Bond, Dennis Brutus and Virginia Setshedi, are also noticeably furious at U2's lead singer and the NGOs he rode in on.


S G said...

so i guess Mr Monbiot and the present histologion support the idea of giving money to people who have proven spectacularly unsuccusful in using it for development purposes WITH NO conditions whatsoever? Why don't dump the money to the ocean instead? It will have the same effect and at least everobody will know it!

talos said...

Actually both Mr. Monbiot and yours' truly, suggest that people who have been spectacularly succesful in breeding corruption should stop *taking* money from impoverished countries. And either remove trade tarrifs on third world products or allow extensive protectionism for their own products, or preferably both.

BTW, you seem to have skipped over this relevant part of Monbiot's article on debt "forgiveness":

"The idea swallowed by most commentators – that the conditions our governments impose help to prevent corruption – is laughable. To qualify for World Bank funding, our model client Uganda was forced to privatise most of its state-owned companies, before it had any means of regulating their sale. A sell-off which should have raised $500m for the Ugandan exchequer instead raised $2m. The rest was nicked by government officials. Unchastened, the World Bank insisted that – to qualify for the debt relief programme the G8 has now extended – the Ugandan government sell off its water supplies, agricultural services and commercial bank, again with minimal regulation."