Should have waited a day to post about Make Poverty History

It seems another ad specifically promoting the American segment of Make Poverty History, which you can't see online as far as I can tell, will begin airing in the USA on ABC and MTV on Sunday, featuring celebrities and religious leaders. The AP put out a story on the launch, featuring Bono and Brad Pitt, and I can't overstate my delight at reading that two of the religious leaders who will "complete each other's sentences" are "evangelist Pat Robertson and the Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States." This is not a debate on the merits of either of those gentlemen, but right now, it's really hard to imagine two people less likely to appear in the same sentence, much less the same endorsement campaign.

I'm going to give a few more references on all this, since I've had some emails asking me to (one saying "you've got to link Bono's TED speech! I finally get it!") -- and also since often when I post something U2-related on the topic, I get responses that make it clear many people aren't aware of the basic outlines of the issue and think it's a charity fundraiser, or some kind of slanted criticism of their particular government. I expect the questions will only increase as more people see the Vertigo Tour, so maybe this will be helpful.

Background: 191 countries pledged in 2000 to meet by 2015 something called the Millennium Development Goals, which if you click and read them, are not at all pie-in-the-sky idealism, but have targets that are measurable, pragmatic, and obviously achievable. The human realities of the facts behind these targets are very hard for us in the West to wrap our minds around, as is the way they together create what Jeff Sachs calls "a poverty trap" which prevents nations from "getting onto the first rung of the development ladder." The statistics make us glaze over, or the images turn into a sort of tragic Spielberg movie in our minds, and we shift our generosity and attention to something easier for us to imagine, like a natural disaster.

Anyway, one among a huge number of steps on the way to those targets is that high-income nations have set the benchmark of raising their annual aid to 0.7 percent of GNP of each donor country; very few nations have yet done so. There is a good Q&A on the Millennium Project site that will help you learn about the key issue of trade, the perennial suspicion that aid might be wasted, and the particular challenge of sub-Saharan Africa.

We're five years in, and this year is the review year; September is the MDG review meeting (July is the debt meeting). The resources are there, the know-how is there, but progress is such that there's no way the goals will be met by 2015, especially in Africa, unless some major political will gets mobilized. Perhaps obviously, that mobilization is what's going on with the text-to-UNITE thing at U2 concerts. Why 2005? will tell you more about why there is an international campaign to muster that political will this year. The New York Times also published a great editorial on why now is the time; you can read it here (PDF).

There are obvious resonances to tenets of Judaism and Christianity here, although as with the Civil Rights struggle in the USA, obviously many people who have no spiritual convictions grasp the moral force of the argument anyway. Nevertheless, it's no surprise that faith-based organizations were among the first to embrace campaigning on the Goals -- building on the Jubilee movement -- and many of the ONE Campaign's founders are Christian groups. One key evangelical coalition is the Micah Challenge. You you can see a very long list of organizations who are working alongside each other here, and among them, of course, is DATA, the lobbying group founded by Bono.

Here are several ways you can get involved. ONE will gladly sell you a ONE Campaign white wristband (go here if you're outside the USA). And again, Americans can sign the ONE declaration, which is what that video this post started with is promoting.

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