Bono, Geldof Meet Schroeder, Prodi, Chretien, Blair and Putin.

23 Jul 2001
Bono and Bob Geldof led a delegation of drop-the-debt campaigners to meetings with world leaders at the weekend's G8 summit in Genoa.

They met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, European Union President Romano Prodi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

And while pro-poor campaigners agreed with world leaders that the violent anti-globalisation protest which marred the Summit was not the way forward, they also expressed anger that rich countries were not doing enough to reduce Third World debt and fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

"The violence isn't helping us," said Bono of the riots which overshadowed the fact that African leaders had been invited to the summit for the first time. "Of all the days to destroy, they destroyed one where there was some actual dialogue happening between the G8 and leaders of developing nations."

"I don't think violence is ever right," Bono added. "Anger is understandable when facing the obscenity of the ever widening gap of inequality on the planet between the haves and the have nots.

"It's OK banging your fist on the table. It's not okay to put your fist in the face of an opponent, whether they are protesters or police."

But he said groups like Drop the Debt are more dangerous than rioters "because we have people thinking". "I think we're dangerous, more than people throwing Molotov cocktails, because we have people thinking. We are dangerous in that we are non-exclusive."

He and Geldof told Group of Eight leaders that they could not retreat forever behind bunker security at their Italian summit, plunged into gloom by the death of a protester during riots on Friday. Geldof suggested the pomp and security surrounding such summits left the world's most powerful elected leaders looking cut off from the poor.

"I am offended by the tone of these summits: democratically elected leaders with the panoply of power, private jets, swishing through the 'red zone' in motorcades," he said. "Change the way you do it and start discussing things that bring the people out on the streets,"

Disappointed that the G8 announced no major new debt relief beyond implementing a package decided two years ago, Bono and Geldof are turning to next year's summit hosts Canada as the best chance for writing off billions of dollars of foreign debt.

In a document issued at the summit, the G8 said it would strengthen efforts to help more countries qualify for debt relief and urged developing countries to carry out reforms.

"We want 100 percent of debt canceled for the most wretched and poorest people on the planet," Geldof said.

A G8 grant of $1.2 billion to a global health fund set up to fight AIDS failed to meet the scale of the problem, said Bono.

History will look at this moment and highlight two things - the Internet and how a continent burst into flames while we stood by with watering cans. History will deal very harshly with those who do nothing.


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