June 29, 2005

Live 8’s lofty aim is to change world, not feed it

By Andrew Gray

LONDON (Reuters) - Last time they wanted to feed the world,this time they want to change it.

The 10 Live 8 concerts around the globe this Saturday taketheir inspiration from the Live Aid gigs 20 years ago whichraised over $100 million for famine relief in Africa -- anachievement widely hailed at the time.

The aims of organizer Bob Geldof and his fellow campaignersare more ambitious now. The Irish rock singer'sexpletive-peppered appeals for money have been replaced by acall to "tilt the world on its axis" in favor of the poor.

The campaign's initial focus is the summit of leaders fromthe powerful G8 countries in Scotland next week.

As part of the broader Make Poverty History coalition ofaid agencies, churches and other groups, Live 8 has three keydemands for the G8 leaders -- double aid to Africa, cut Africancountries' debts and make trade fairer.

It will take years before anyone knows for sure whetherLive 8 succeeded.

"The bottom line is it's going to take a while," said MidgeUre, Geldof's partner in efforts to mobilize musicians forAfrica since they made the Band Aid charity single in 1984.

"I mean, it's taken 20 years for me to see the results ofwhat happened with Band Aid," Ure told Reuters.

Geldof's admirers laud him for trying to address the deeperpolitical problems behind poverty, famine and disease. Othershave derided the initiative, saying concerts by mega-rich rockstars are not the way to tackle complex issues.

Live 8's supporters believe they already have producedresults.


They say the media coverage generated by the concertshelped shift positions in Germany and the United States so theG8's finance ministers could agree earlier this month to writeoff much of the debt owed by 18 poor nations, mainly fromAfrica.

"In some ways, the threat of Live 8 was sufficient to getthem talking about things they weren't talking aboutpreviously," said Paul Vallely, the co-author of Geldof'sautobiography who is working with him on the new concerts.

The next indicator of progress should come in the finalstatement from the gathering of leaders from Britain, Canada,France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The campaigners want rich countries to give an extra $50billion each year in aid, with about half going to Africa. Theywant it to start flowing next year or the year after.

"I think in some ways that's the key thing -- the actualmoney on the table," said Richard Curtis, the writer of hitfilms such as Four Weddings and A Funeral who is one of theleading members of the anti-poverty campaign.

"None of the pop stars would tell you that they understandthese issues in depth, but the politicians do and whatpoliticians have to understand is that actually the pop starsdo represent normal people."

The campaigners are looking for signs from the summit thatrich states will dismantle trade barriers which stop Africanfarmers getting their products to Western markets.

But they will have to wait until December talks of theWorld Trade Organization in Hong Kong to see if a deal isstruck.

Even if the leaders sing next week from the same song sheetas the Live 8 performers, politicians have made similarcommitments before but quietly let them slip years later.

To hold them to account, Live 8 stars such as Geldof and U2singer Bono plan to remind voters whether leaders have kepttheir promises when they are up for re-election, Vallely said.

"Music is an incredibly powerful thing," Ure said. "Are youtelling me that Bono hasn't got almost as powerful a positionin society as any politician, or Bob or Sting or any of thoseguys?" (Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White)