Nobel winners were meeting in Paris for a three-day summit, coinciding with celebrations marking 60 years since the UN declaration of human rights was adopted in Paris. They said Bono was chosen for the award for his global campaigning to persuade rich nations to cut Africa’s debt burden, combat poverty, promote fair trade and raise funds for the treatment of HIV-AIDS and malaria.
“We decided to nominate a man who has given a lot and will continue to give a great deal to the struggle for human rights, to the fight against poverty, with his music and with his words,” said Italian politician Walter Veltroni, co-host of the event. “He has put pressure on the world’s governments to reach the UN’s Millennium Goals. To give him the prize, is to say that fight will carry on.”
Here’s how Bono accepted the award:
‘The Man of Peace Award… come on…. let’s be honest… we all know this is as close as I’m going to get to the real thing… so I am holding on tight to this …
Seriously though… I am really honoured to be here… to accept this award from all of you… thank you for taking me seriously… because that’s not a given when you’re a rockstar. Even worse, a rock star with a conscience …..spare me.
The ONE campaign, the organization that I represent when working on these issues is very serious by the way….
Deadly serious, thanks to support from people like Bill and Melinda Gates and John Doerr and Susie Buffett who fund our organization and our work…
And the world’s poor deserve seriousness… they deserve the best representation in the world’s capitals – they deserve their own interest group, their own powerful lobby…
The US gun lobby spends nearly $200 million dollars a year making sure you can’t get elected if you support gun control.
Tobacco companies spend $19 million on lobbying Congress
The world’s poor deserve more than that.
For them it’s quite literally life and death. 4000 people dying every day of a preventable treatable disease… HIV/AIDS, 10,000 dying every day of a mosquito bite… 5000 children dying every day of diarrhea…
I mean, diarrhea can be a problem in our house, but it is not a death sentence….
So that’s why we set up the ONE campaign…I think our voices were heard during the presidential campaign in the US.
Did you notice that neither Barack Obama or John McCain ever once criticized aid, never used it as a pawn… Despite the huge economic crisis, Barack Obama has made a bold promise to double aid to Africa… part of the reason for this, I believe, is the 2 million members of the ONE campaign that we have in America… they showed up at every town hall meeting during the elections… making sure the candidates knew that this stuff mattered to them.
And you know that it’s not just Obama himself that’s committed… its his whole team… even his security team…the tough guys.
On the way here yesterday, I got to thinking about this guy Alfred Nobel – what an incredible guy – then I thought – hang on a second… isn’t he the guy that invented dynamite…?
I know it’s a bit of a cliché to talk about Nobel and dynamite.
But it is a funny thing, that it’s the people who know the real cost of war that fight hardest for peace…
I’ve been working on these issues of extreme poverty for quite a while…maybe 10 years now… when I started, I never would have expected a phone call from the head of NATO, General Jim Jones – who will soon be President Obama’s national security advisor.
He’s an extraordinary man. A six foot three gentle giant.
He said to me we have billions of dollars of high tech equipment floating in the Mediterranean Sea and yet we are losing to Hezbollah because they are building schools…
And then he said, I’m a marine… the men and women of the marine corps don’t mind being shot at for the right reasons but they do not like being shot at for being the wrong reasons – I asked what the wrong reason were – he said, for being American…
That sent a chill down me… I mean, this was America we were talking about… America that liberated Europe after the second world war, America that wiped out smallpox and polio… America that created the Peace Corps… and they are being attacked because they are American?
But America is about to present a new face to the world. Barack Obama, Jim Jones, and the person who said this: ‘Instability and extremism fester in places where infrastructure, education and opportunity are lacking… The battlespace goes far beyond the battlefield.’
That’s the next Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
‘Security, stability and development go hand-in-hand.’
Who said that? That one’s Robert Gates, the US Secretary of Defense, present and future.
There’s new thinking in America… a reimagining of how to deal with some of the greatest challenges of our time… things like extreme climate change… extreme ideologies… and extreme poverty, which is entangled with both.
With a new US administration taking the reins, where does Europe stand on all this? Europe that has long led the world on development issues? Well, let’s not be left behind….
We do see great leadership from Spain… Zapatero is keeping his promise…
We see great leadership from the UK….
Great leadership from Germany… a country that, for the last almost the last 20 years… spent 4 % of GDP on reunification…
Where does France stand, a long time champion on global health, and you could argue, joined at the hip and the heart to africa through its history? Truthfully? France isn’t quite doing its bit against the promises made… and we’re not sure why, because we are pretty sure the french people do care about this stuff. Carla Sarkozy certainly does… she’s just been named ambassador for the Global AIDS fund… and apparently… rumour has it, she sleeps with the President… he has spoken passionately about these issues, but we might need her to do a bit of pick pocketing… France is not however slashing its aid budget…which is what its next door neighbour Italy is doing…what an embarrassment for the next chair of the G8 to be slashing its aid budget.
And today, not far away from here… President Sarkozy and the rest of the European heads of state are trying to figure out where they stand on the link between extreme climate and extreme poverty… will a new grand bargain take shape under which, the people who created the problem of climate change (us) will make sure the people worst affected (the poorest of the poor) benefit financially from a new carbon deal.
Now there’s a bold idea. You know I think that Europe is a thought that needs to become a feeling. I get the sense that for many europeans, europe is defined by geography and bureaucracy. I think it’s through working together on bold projects like this, looking outside of ourselves, that we can start to really feel Europe—what it means, what it’s about, the big idea.
I know I am saying all of this at a time when financial markets are melting down and I might sound like I never read a newspaper … but it is in troubled times, when times for ourselves are toughest, that we reveal who we really are. Do we baton down the hatches and protect our own, or do we join forces and make sure the most vunerable are not forgotton. Do we dwell on the problems, or the solutions. Because in troubled times, I’d argue precisely what we should be doing is looking for new ways to fix old problems.
Just look around this room… the people in this room – you’ve all come out of conflict is the truth… you’ve all seen opportunity in moments of crisis…
Just think about Europe at the end of World War II.
Germany was in ruins. Britain, penniless. France, been starved and suffocated. Economies, hopes, the future seemed wrecked.
And through the wreckage walked giants. De Gaulle, Monnet. Churchill, Keynes. Truman, Marshall, Adenauer. Amid the ruins, they could see a path to a more broadly shared peace and prosperity. And that’s what they built—a post-war order of security and opportunity that endured for half a century.
Out of that conflict came the Declaration of Human Rights… 60 years ago this week. But its basic ideas were older than that.
On the ruins, they built a new world. They envisioned it, and then they built it to last.
That was their wisdom.
What is ours?
Look we all know it… we’re at a moment in time here, just like after the first world war when the league of nations was set up, just like after the second world war when the UN and the World Bank and the IMF were formed… the world is up for grabs…a system that has benefited the lucky few and excluded the unlucky many is under the microscope… Soon to be on the operating table. New ideas are in play. Creativity is needed. all the creativity in this room…
It raises eyebrows, fists even, when musicians enter these debates….it is unusual but it shouldn’t be… I may be biased but I think we need all disciplines (art, commerce, fashion, science) as well as politics to converge on these challenges.
Sometimes it takes crisis to reimagine the world and what we are capable of… To shake up the established order. To make old, bad ideas look ridiculous.
In fact, history has a way of making ideas that were once acceptable look ridiculous…
You know that… Willem de Klerk… you worked side by side with Nelson Mandela to figure out a new future for South Africa…
Who would have thought in our lifetime there would be peace in Northern Ireland? You did John Hume – you did Betty Williams – you did Mairead Maguire.
Who would have thought that there was to be a peaceful way out of the cold war and the spectre of mutually assured destruction… MAD madness…? Mikhail Gorbachev knew that… and we’re missing the great man here today…
As I said, what is our wisdom. Could it be that we decide it is no longer acceptable that an accident of geography—where you are born—can decide whether you live or whether you die… that we decide that human rights, the right to live like a human, belong not just to those who live in the comfort of their freedom. I think so but we haven’t quite got there yet.
But with your help, we might get there soon.
Since the start of the 21st century, just 8 years ago, many millions more African children are in school, millions on life-saving ARVs, millions protected from malaria by bed nets. Momentum is building. Energies are converging. The wheels of change are turning and the people in this room are living proof that we can alter their direction.
You know, this is not a burden, this is an adventure. Its exciting. Together we can make the insanity and injustice and inequality of extreme stupid poverty look ridiculous… a child dying in a world of plenty for lack of food in its belly… Death by mosquito bite or dirty water… These things we can consign to the ash heap of history… and write a new history which makes us all proud.