Still optimistic, but no sleep until G8 promises fulfilled

Bono has a conference call with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to discuss their shared vision for the prospects of the continent
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Bono: There is a report in The Independent which has the most shocking statistics concerning global warning. It says that Africa will be the worst hit from global warming, which is going to cause huge problems in terms of crop failures and so on. Is this something you are aware of?

Bono: There is a report in The Independent which has the most shocking statistics concerning global warning. It says that Africa will be the worst hit from global warming, which is going to cause huge problems in terms of crop failures and so on. Is this something you are aware of?

Tony Blair: It underscores the need to get an international agreement when Kyoto expires and to make sure that that agreement incorporates all the big countries like America, China, India, the EU and Japan. If we fail to do that, then it is a very serious situation indeed and the poorest are the most vulnerable.

B: Is this an opportunity for the United Kingdom to lead the way in terms of the new industries, like the way Brazil is leading on fuel alternatives, such as ethanol and other biofuels?

TB: We can play a lead role in terms of the science and the technology, but the critical thing is that business will develop these ideas if they are given a binding framework and it becomes in their interest. But this won't happen unless you get an international agreement that incorporates the big players. We are doing whatever we can in this country.

B: Chancellor, can I ask you to comment, and bear in mind countries like Sweden that have made such vast progress to using non-fossil fuels?

Gordon Brown: The international agreement is what we should be looking for. What is incredibly exciting is the World Bank's proposal of loan and grant facilities to developing countries to look at alternative sources of energy and energy efficiency. There is a challenge, but there is also an opportunity.

B: Chancellor, I've just got back from a trip to Washington, where your announcement of $15bn over 10 years for education for the poorest of the poor created a real reverberation. Are you worried that some of your other G8 partners and finance ministers are not coming up with new initiatives to match this and are in fact failing to honour existing ones?

GB: No. The G8 will be discussing the education initiative in the coming weeks. What Hilary Benn [the Development Secretary] was able to do was to say for the first time that we will provide predictable funding, so that you can actually plan to train teachers and build schools and budget ahead. What I found in Mozambique, when I launched the initiative, is that there is a tremendous sense of hope and optimism: kids who want to go to school and parents who want to see their kids get a chance. We are changing the way we can deliver this aid. I think the sense of hope and the determination of the G8 will enable us to achieve what we want to achieve, of 100 million children into school by 2015.

B: Prime Minister, I want to just take you to a more personal place in your trips to this terrible beauty that we call Africa now ­ to an inspiring moment, a person you have met, or a moment of despair.

TB: I remember being in Ethiopia and visiting people who were putting together really exciting projects for their local village called Debre Zeit as a result of the financial help they have been given. The thing that impressed me most, which is why we have still got to have a sense of optimism about what can be achieved is that these people have amazing initiative, creativity, total determination to succeed. The point is that Africa wants to stand on its own feet and what it wants from us in the meantime is help to get there. They don't want to be dependent on anybody, they actually want to be self-reliant and can be, and that's the most important thing. Sometimes when you meet people in different countries who are suffering from HIV and Aids and who are in a state of despair, it's possible to become despairing yourself, but I still think, despite all the problems, there are enough examples of people getting up and doing it with the right help to make us optimistic about the future.

GB: My main image is one of hope. In Kenya, a million people turned up for school just because we were able to provide education for free. I remember a 12-year-old girl whose brother was dying of Aids.

B: Africa's voice is absent at these closed-door meetings, which makes, I think, it very difficult to make a sympathetic trade deal to their end. Is there something you can do to change that? I would also just ask you to reconsider the conditionalities involved in the debt deal which make it difficult for some people to qualify. All or most support a conditionality of clear and transparent process, but not onerous conditions about opening their markets to us, forced liberalisation of markets, if you like. Is there something you can do about it?

GB: We want a trade deal where countries can implement their own plans for opening up to the rest of the world. Japan has led the way in this, to provide finance, so that the capacity to trade can be built up in Africa and other developing countries. I do feel that you are right to say that the African voice has got to be heard, it should be heard at the WTO, we are making reforms of the International Monetary Fund so that the voice of developing countries is going to be stronger in the years to come. So we are determined that the voice of Africa is properly heard. On conditionality, the conditions that we want are transparency and accountability to your own people.

B: Are you ready as board members of the World Bank to revisit those conditions?

GB: At the IMF, and this will affect the World Bank, we are trying to remove the conditions that are depriving countries of the chance to spend the money they need on education. And I believe we have made enormous progress over the past few weeks on that.

TB: I think it is really important to have Africa at the table. We need to broaden African involvement and we are trying to get the EU to up its commitment to this. This is absolutely crucial.

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