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I'm taking part in the Live-8 conference call with Sir Bob Geldof about the pressing need for aid to Africa, having been invited by John Hinderaker and Joe Trippi. Sir Bob is talking with a number of bloggers despite having the flu. This is part of the Make Poverty History campaign.
12:13 - Sir Bob is giving us a history of his involvement in ending world hunger, a compelling story about personal and emotional connections to the problem. He wants to make sure that hunger doesn't become a Right/Left issue but that bipartisan efforts need to be made to keep people from starving to death ...
12:17 - The idea is to get the G8 to make Africa a high priority. Africa is the only region that continues to decline ...
12:18 - Sir Bob talks very quickly, and it's hard to keep up. However, this is being recorded so we will be able to peruse it more closely later. However, he's talking about the Ethiopian famine, about trees that bear no fruit, and how AIDS affects the producers in African society ...
12:22 - Geldof insists that something other than corruption and conflict is at play in Africa -- that they have some endemic condition throughout the continent which causes poverty to endure ...
12:25 - He's asking for a Marshall Plan for Africa -- one percent of GDP dedicated to trade improvement, debt relief, and direct aid dependent on political reform. Sounds good in theory ...
12:28 - Another concert would be pointless, Geldof says. What is needed is a groundswell of public pressure to come up with a workable plan and a significant amount for the effort. He feels that Bush is more responsive than widely thought on this issue and has an opportunity to surprise the world. Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, and other evangelicals have signed a letter asking for Bush to make this a top priority ...
12:33 - Todd Zwicki wants to know about the concept of "trade justice". Geldof: The EU is a protection racket that Al Capone would love. The trade cartels exist to protect domestic production ...
12:37 - Geldof: "Read your Adam Smith." Africa has its own issues with protectionism which need reform...
12:41 - Mugabe is "a thug", but doesn't necessarily represent the entirety of African politics.
12:46 - What they want: cancel African debt, lower trade barriers, and double the direct aid to Africa.
12:50 - Geldof: Aid doesn't get into the thugs' pockets as often as commonly thought since the end of the Cold War, when each side had their pet thugs. The debt is the biggest obstacle to the aid reaching the people who need it. The first launch of money would build the accountable structures of government in order to expedite later aid ...
12:59 - "[Americans] were born to do this! ... The American people are extraordinarily generous people." He points out that official aid comes to 0.15% of the American budget, but that people think it amounts to 15% of the GDP. He's mixing apples and oranges, but the underlying point is probably correct -- we're contributing less than we think, but we want to contribute more.
End of call -- The bloggers want linkable sites to make our arguments, and the Live8 folks will be building those resources for us. We will be following up with more contacts between that organization and the list of bloggers. Sir Bob Geldof gave us a bounty of information, and hopefully we can start sharing that with you once we get it organized.
It's exciting to see people reach out to the blogosphere on a nonpartisan basis to affect real change in the world. Keep your eyes out for more developments, here and at other blogs.
UPDATE 2:33 - Charles at LGF mirrors my feelings about the call:
Despite my skepticism (rock stars with causes, oh boy), I was impressed with Geldof�s knowledge of the situation, and by his group�s ideas to make sure that whatever aid is generated will not simply be pocketed by corrupt African dictators. Ultimately, the vision seems to be to promote freedom and reform on the African continent. Geldof said, �Robert Mugabe will not be included.�
That last quote came in response to my skeptical question about how to keep the money out of the pockets of tyrants.
UPDATE II: John Hinderaker, one of the conference-call's hosts, has this to say at Power Line:
On the merits of Geldof's campaign, I had reservations, given 1) my general preference for individual action over government action, and 2) the sad history of much foreign aid to Africa. But I figured I'd keep an open mind and hear Geldof out.
So this noon, we had a conference call in which a number of bloggers took part--I don't know the exact count--that went on for over an hour. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Geldof is an extraordinarily knowledgable guy. Equally important, he is not soft-headed about Africa's problems. He emphasizes free markets and the need for political reform, which should be, and according to Geldof will be, a condition of the assistance that he advocates.
Believe me, we all understand the skepticism -- perhaps Geldof most of all. We know this will be a tough sell, even to ourselves. I want to see the specifics before I go running around mindlessly supporting it. However, I think we need to ask ourselves where we want to see Africa in twenty years, and what needs to be done to get it there.Sphere It View blog reactions
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