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Sunday, March 26, 2017
Text: Bob Geldof at Westminster Cathedral. Part 2
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¬†I would like Europe to work but we need to understand why there is no solidarity ≠ rather than pretending that everything is fine. We need to stop and think, where do we go from here? We need to build on the western idea of the individual. We have extended that to the East, but now that we have got there we need to find things to bind us together ≠ in the absence of a Soviet threat. The simple truth is that we don't have the same common feeling for people in Bulgaria that people in the United States under the cult of the flag or the fetish of the constitution feel for someone from Minneapolis or Texas. And we will not get it by taking refuge in our Christian past, or seeing ourselves ridiculously as a counterweight to American power, at a time when China and India's success is the big story of our time. I suggest this must be the real challenge. But no matter how frustrating the tension between ideal and reality becomes - the solution cannot be to retreat behind our protectionist fences, our very large, well-tended hedge. To retreat fearfully behind the fusty embrace of our brocade curtain. Europe no more than the UK can exist by or unto itself. It must engage with the world. Beyond duty, it is a necessity. Let's look at it in a way with which I am familiar. The relationship of Europe with Africa. A very simple way of looking at it is this; were the UK alone to donate its entire GDP to Africa it still would not relieve the poverty or resolve the misery of those African people and it would simply compound ours. Britain like almost everywhere, including America can no longer function in isolation. And neither can Europe and certainly not Africa. The North Coast of Africa is just 8 miles from Europe, but it could be in another world. Africa has slipped out of the world safety net. It drifts away from us propelled by the enormity of their poverty and our exhausted indifference. 20 years ago next year I stood in the death camps of northern Ethiopia. As far as I could see in the denuded and blasted moonscape about me, people, often naked streamed out of the hills and plains in long lines to a place they'd heard others had come to sit and wait and die perhaps, until someone found them and could maybe help. The anger I felt then has lasted 20 years. But on a visit to Ethiopia last year I felt a different, newer despair. This time everything was green, but the people were still starving. They were used to the irregular rain falls, and would normally allow for the subsequent crop failures and food shortages by profitably selling their coffee on the world market and buy in whatever food they needed to make up that year's shortfall. Except this year the price of coffee had collapsed by 70% because Vietnam, a country they had never heard of, had entered the market a continent away and depressed the world market price. We call that globalisation. They don't know that word they simply call it death. I never thought I would see feeding camps in Ethiopia again, but in those 20 years things had got worse. Africa has uniquely grown poorer by 25%. A typical African country today has the GDP of a town of 20,000 in the UK. Half of its people subsist on 65 pence or less a day. The U.N. spends $1.3billion a year on peacekeeping but a fifth of all Africans live in countries riven by civil war. This instability helped spread Aids which unknown in 84 was now killing 6000 a day. The dead can't plant so people were starving again. Only one in 400 victims was taking anti-retrovirals. Net investment south of the Sahara was a pathetic $3.9 billion and was worse than in the past 6 years. We are all failing Africa but Europe in particular is failing Africa ≠ and itself in the process. I say in particular because they are our immediate neighbour. Our common history goes back millennia ≠ through the black popes and saints, Islamic period, the crusades, the slave trade and colonialism and post-independence. But it is our future together that is most at stake. Europe should now stand on the threshold of a great new idea ≠ the ability to lead the planet on a different type of crusade. To make poverty history. It needs to do it, it should do it, and it can do it. It can make the condition of the lives whole and healthy should it want to. It can through our example of turning a battered, ruined, bankrupt, starving and war-torn continent into a prosperous and democratic one. And this is the great modern European achievement. The problem is that we have never had a shared sense of the continent's responsibilities to the rest of the world. Each country has gone through its own national rethink overcoming the knowledge of what we are to the ideal of what we could be. The imperial countries through a mix of naked self-interest and guilt, the Nordics as part of a politically and religiously driven internationalism, the Germans out of historical restitution. And now the EU needs to urgently re-think its fraudulent, inadequate and frankly lying policies on debt, trade and aid. The Pope enjoined Europe to be open to the other continents. If that is so then Africa makes a mockery of that European ideal. Each of the principles that lie behind the European project ≠ equality, mutuality, and solidarity have been perverted into their opposites: dependence, double standards, and duplicity. We drop meagre scraps from our tables of prosperity with one hand, but then scoop them up with the other. We talk about partnership but we have enslaved a continent with loans ≠ forcing the poorest countries in the world to spend more every year on interest payments than on healthcare and education and ensuring that all Africans are born into debt slavery and die owing more than when they were born. Some European countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have yet to cancel all the debt owed by HIPCs. Other countries like Germany and Italy have promised to do it but not delivered. And many EU states are disgracefully late in paying their contributions to the HIPC Trust Fund for cancelling multilateral debt. In a nutshell. This reluctance, this tardiness, this grinding unwillingness kills people. We lecture them on free trade but we close our markets to their agricultural produces and swamp them with subsidised imports of European products. Each European cow gets subsidies worth 157 times what the EU gives to each African. That is actually true: the EU gives §5.4 a year to each person in extreme poverty, it gives §848 a year to each dairy cow in Europe. And even as we talk of making the Doha round a trade round for development, the French, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Portuguese, Spanish and Poles are continuing to obstruct reform of the CAP. Our double-standards are almost designed to keep Africans in poverty while impoverishing Europe morally. We force them to sell us commodities but preventing them from adding value to them. An African who wants to sell pineapples in the EU faces a tariff of 9% for fresh fruit, 32 % for tinned pineapples and 42% for pineapple juice. This goes back to the original perversion of Adam Smith by European colonialists who decided Africa's comparative advantage would be its poverty. Forget the invisible hand of the market, this is the malignant cheating hand of the protection racket that much EU trade regulation is. Europeans boast loudly that we have bigger aid programmes than anyone else in the world. But over half the money destined by the EU for the world's poorest people is spent in middle income countries, mostly in Europe's immediate neighbourhood. The same is true of many member states: just 6% of Greek aid goes to low-income countries; 15% for Austria; 24% for Finland. I have worked quite intimately with all the bigger governments. I have thrown up my hands in despair about what they do, what they won't do, and what they pretend they do! Even though all European countries promised 25 years ago to increase aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP, the reality is that only 4 of them have. Italy ≠ the 5th biggest economy in the world, gives only 0.17%! And worse still, many European countries continue to tie their aid to contracts for their national companies. The money is designed to increase profits rather than reduce poverty. The last survey of aid in Italy showed that 92% of its aid was tied. And over half of Austrian and Spanish aid is tied today. And European civil society ≠ including the Catholic Church - must also examine their impact on Africa. It is time to go beyond charity, and confront some of the theologically suspect as well as criminally stupid shibboleths that have held back development. Many Christians must have shared Archbishop Tutu's reaction to the nomination of Pope Benedict when he asked him to be "someone more open to a reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS What makes this so depressing is that it does not have to be this way. The unpalatable truth is that throughout economic history those who succeeded economically have nearly always 'kicked away the ladder' beneath to prevent others from scrambling up behind. That is why today we are imposing so many impossible conditions on poor countries in the form of benign interference, which in truth, actually prevent them developing. Perhaps it's not conscious but this is the manner in which all wealthy countries have always behaved. That's what was so unusual about the United States Marshall Plan which after the Second World War revived Europe. Yet the reality is that America's genuine legendary generosity was also in its self-interest. The US needed to create a viable trading partner for their uniquely booming post war economy, a bulwark against the Soviets threatening Stalinism, and most importantly a philosophical partner giving Europe an absolute identity as part of the west as opposed to turning eastwards. But today we can put self-interest and European idealism together ≠ because through our wealth the end of extreme poverty is genuinely within our grasp. We need to develop our own version of the Marshall Plan for Africa ≠ showing the same sense of foresight and idealism that America showed in our own continent. . It is not just that an Africa freed from the yoke of extreme poverty will be less of a security threat. In the 1960s, South Korea had a GDP per capita the same size as Nigeria, and look at how our economies and societies have benefited from the rise of Asia The potential is there. I have spent time with Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and I can tell that while their eyes glaze over in European Council meetings, they light up when they go to Africa. In Africa we find a focus to the latent common idealism of the continent and allows European citizens to make a common cause with their political leaders. A solidarity of concern that can be matched by a solidarity of self-interest at the bureaucratic level. This is a unique year to talk about these issues: in the UK we have a concurrency of presidencies, that of the G8 and the EU and coincidentally the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. And what is more than that ≠ we do have a plan. I have learnt in the last twenty years, that it is no longer appropriate to deal with each of the African issues on an individual basis. Debt, Trade, Aid, Aids, War, Hunger these are merely the individual excrescences of the singular condition that is poverty. Even here no matter how vast the lobby the momentary enthusiasm for one campaign leads rapidly to public boredom and the focus changes to the next conundrum. I was involved in the drop the debt issue, a hugely successful public lobby to deal with the lasceratingly cruel, ridiculous and immoral debt slavery into which we had pushed the continent. The troops were summoned, banners raised, the unions and churches sounded the clarion cry of Middle England, that greatest of political lobbies, the Pope pronounced and Presto a third of debt was wiped out, to no obvious discomfort to us but equally as it turned out to not much gain to them. A little bit, in some countries sure but in general new acronyms and devices were implemented for us to hide behind and pretend we were doing something but also making countries who could never pay, who produced less than their debt burden leap through ever more arcane financial hoops and hurdles. Earlier this year, the Africa Commission, of which I was a member, produced a comprehensive report that looked at how we can move from a piecemeal approach to a blueprint for ending extreme poverty in Africa. We held consultations in 49 individual countries across Africa, in every G8 country, throughout Europe, and China. We received nearly 500 formal submissions and examined the vast wealth of analysis on aid and development over the past 50 years. Our lessons confirm some of Europe's deepest experiences ≠ and show that we can be part of the solution, rather than the problem The most important conclusion is that the one factor underlying all sub-Saharan Africa's difficulties over the past 40 years is the weakness of governance and the absence of an effective state. It was Africa's misfortune not only to have been plundered by Europe, but also to have been colonized at a time when the concept of the nation state was firmly entrenched as a primary determinant of the historical process. The consequence is that today the continent is divided into 46 states, more than 3 times the number of Asia, (whose land mass is 50% larger), and nearly 4 times the number of South America. More states are entirely landlocked in Africa -15 - than in the rest of the world put together, and no country in Africa is free from problems of access, security, and economic stability that is directly attributable to the boundaries they inherited from the colonial era. But the one common feature that unites many of these states is that they don't work. That is why one of the commission's main recommendations was to make a major investment to improve Africa's capacity, that is the means and structures that enable administrations to govern by working through the building of systems and staff in local and national governments, but also in trans-national bodies such as the African Union and the 10 regional economic communities that are developing in west, east, central and southern Africa. Effective states need Accountability. Like the EU African governments have to ensure that their systems are open to the scrutiny of their citizens. That means strengthening parliaments, the media, trade unions and the judiciary. Rich nations also have responsibility to stop corruption. As Mobutu the unlamented thug who looted Zaire into paralysis said "It takes two to corrupt; the corrupter and the corrupted" They must track down money looted from Africa, now sitting in foreign bank accounts, and send that money back to those from whom it was stolen. Western banks must be obliged by law to inform on suspicious accounts. As in Europe those who give bribes must be tackled as well as those who take them. Foreign companies, especially those in the oil and mining industries, must be pressed to publish what they pay to governments. And firms who bribe should be refused export credits. Above all in a continent of thousands of ethnicities where unlike Europe who invented it, the nation state has never really taken root we need to support Africa's attempts to build a Union for their continent like the European Union. Indeed it is conceivable that Africa needs it more than Europe. When a citizen perceives no benefit from the state he will look to give his loyalties elsewhere. In Africa's case the clan or tribe and more recently to Islam in the North and Evangelical Christianity in the South. This can be seen to be an attempt to join in a supra-national overarching entity transcending the narrow confines of the failed state. In this way Africans gain purchase on a form of globalised power. They have always understood that spiritual power is political power, something that we in Europe are having to rediscover to our dismay. I leave it you to decide if this is a good thing or not. Either way it's a reality. Africa is confronted by shameful trade barriers that tax its goods as they enter the markets of the rich world. These must be dismantled. But African nations do not trade between themselves. A mere 12 per cent of all African goods go to other African countries. Africans must reduce and simplify the tariff systems between one African country and another. It must reform excessive bureaucracy, cumbersome customs procedures, and corruption by public servants. It must make it easier to set up businesses. It must improve the way African nations work with one another in the continent's regional economic communities. So what can Europe do? Trade justice. Drop the debt. More and better aid. We must draw deep down on our history of building effective states, investing in infrastructure, supporting democratic transitions, and regional economic integration. One of the things that unites the European club is our smugness. But if there is one challenge I want to set Europe it is to live up to its rhetoric. Everyone likes to attack George Bush ≠ but when it comes to Africa we don't have that much to be smug about. The US starts from a very low base, but in the last few years he has doubled aid to Africa [check], introduced the Millennium Challenge Account involving billions of dollars, and is giving 3 billion dollars a year to Aids. He challenged Europe to respond ≠ but then nothing happened. If people want Europe to balance America, I'll give you a cause. Let's match that record and lead where we know others will follow. In the allievement of the greatest moral sore and potentially dangerous political problem at the beginning of the 21st century. The grotesque impoverishment of an entire continent. The annual mass dying of those who have nothing. The cost of the commission's whole package of proposals would be an extra $75bn a year. Africa can pay for about a third of this if we open our markets to them and let them trade. The rest must financed by increases in aid. Aid should be doubled now, from $25bn a year to $50bn. Though this sounds a lot, it is the work of moments to achieve and something we have always promised but never done. We must also end negative aid, which is what debt repayments constitute. That means 100 per cent cancellation of Africa's debts to institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The amounts involved are large, the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Africa, but the costs to Europeans would be tiny (just 10p in every £100 we earn). And look at what we would gain. Ending the tyranny of extreme poverty that sees 8 million people die every year because they are too poor to stay alive. Stopping fifteen thousand people a day from death at the hands of AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Giving all boys and girls free primary education. Empowering women. Reducing Child mortality. And as Europeans we would have an African neighbour that is not a security threat. And a new market on our doorstep with hundreds of millions of potential consumers. And by helping Africa, we might find even ourselves as Europeans ≠ gaining an identity in the same way that the west did through the Marshall Plan. But this time for Europe through the Blair Plan. People say that there are no great causes left. The original generation of Europeans had a big cause: the end of war. Their successors embarked on the necessary ≠ if unglamorous process ≠ of putting the European economy back together again, a process that ended with the creation of the single European market and the single currency. Finally last year we ended the third phase of European integration: spreading democracy to Eastern Europe and creating a Europe that is whole and free. The next phase of building Europe cannot just be about passing constitutions; meeting the Lisbon targets or developing new types of regulation. We need a European project that can inspire Europe's people. Closing the gap between European values and our role in the world must be that project. Europe's citizens can believe in it. Europe's leaders must now live up to these values. We can find solidarity among ourselves through our commitment to the world. And this movement can start here today, in London, the capital of the country that will host the G8 summit and the European Presidency for the second half of the year. The Presidency that could make Poverty History, and unite Europe not just theoretically, not negatively, not bureaucratically, economically or politically but idealistically, emotionally, spiritually into an elevated sense of ourselves. Not the narrow negative solidarity of meanness, nor the thin join of imposed union. Not the odious odes to ersatz joy but a great European US in a solidarity of justice, of value, a solidarity of the European soul.
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