July 15, 2005

Remember Live 8? Reviews mixed for charity stars

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Remember Live 8?

Two weeks after Bob Geldof assembled the greatest
rock-'n-roll lineup ever to pressure world leaders to alleviate
poverty, people are questioning whether musicians and
celebrities should do anything other than entertain.

Two Irish rockers, Geldof and U2 frontman Bono, rubbed
shoulders with the world's most powerful men in Scotland during
a summit earlier this month, calling for more aid and debt
relief and prounouncing themselves satisfied with the outcome.

The Group of Eight agreed to double aid to poor countries
by 2010, adding $50 billion a year, weeks after they reached a
debt relief deal worth more than $40 billion.

"A great justice has been done," said Geldof. At the same
time, ActionAid gave a less positive spin on the commitments:
"The summit has failed to deliver justice for Africa."

The statements underline the complex relationship between
celebrities and serious causes.

Aid groups are careful not to burn bridges with stars they
know they need to attract media attention to a cause.

Yet they are also frustrated at what they see as
celebrities' tendency to oversimplify issues and heap praise on
leaders for deals that may not be quite what they seem.

"Aid agencies have common agendas, and individuals have
their own agendas," said one aid group representative, who
asked not to be named.

Make Poverty History, the charity umbrella group which
works closely with Geldof, argued the G8 debt deal was a tenth
of the amount needed and that less than half the promised aid
increase was new money.

ActionAid also called the outcome on trade issues, allowing
poor countries to compete easier on world markets, a "disaster"
for Africa, where 60 percent of employment comes from small
scale farming.


One of the most important questions for Live 8 organizers
is whether the message on poverty got through to hundreds of
millions of people who tuned in on the day.

Kevin Wall, the executive producer of Live 8, was upbeat,
explaining that raising awareness of issues like African
poverty in the United States takes time. He estimated around
two billion people tuned to Live 8 on television, radio and the

"People are now becoming aware in America," he told
Reuters. "It is not what it is in Britain, it never has been.
We are at the beginning of a process.

"You mix the power of music with a message and it is very,
very powerful."

Helen Palmer, a spokeswoman for charity Oxfam, was also
confident the exercise had yielded results.

"It sort of upped the ante to an extra degree. It has
played a major role in bringing the message to millions more
people and you can't knock that," she said. It was now up to
aid groups to sustain pressure on politicians.

But in America, the world's wealthiest nation, there is
evidence to suggest the message struggled to get through.

"At this point, it's too early to tell just how big an
impact Live 8 will have on its pet issue," Jonathan David
Morris wrote in an opinion piece for a conservative American
Web site.

"But I'm struck by how quickly it seems to have faded from
memory ... a week after the concert, it's as if Live 8 never
happened at all."

In Africa itself, there is also skepticism over G8 pledges.

Adekeye Adebajo, director of the Center for Conflict
Resolution at the University of Cape Town, wrote in a
commentary that farm subsidies in wealthy nations should be
scrapped and the "dumping" of food on poor countries stopped.

"Otherwise, all the recent efforts of musicians,
politicians and activists will turn out simply to have been
much ado about nothing." (Additional reporting by Andrew
Gray) (Editing by Ralph Bulton; (GROUP-LIVE 8-IMPACT; London
newsroom: +44 207 542 7947))