Leaders begin to face the music

When rock star and campaigner for African development Bob Geldof named his new aid concert Live 8, everyone knew who the real audience would be.

And when he timed the five simultaneous concerts for July 2, just days before the G8 summit to be held at Gleneagles in Scotland, July 6-8, he removed all doubts that the audience would not be the millions who would attend or watch the concerts, but eight leaders in a Scottish retreat.

The five concerts, the principal one in London with five others in Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia in the United States, will raise money for development of Africa. But more, they will be a visible—and audible message of people support to a cause that many of the G8 leaders are seen as disregarding.

Britain has made Africa and climate change the top priorities in a special agenda when it hosts the meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight (the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy). Concerts are also being planned in Canada, Russia and Japan.

The summit will take up also the more usual G8 agenda of economic and political policies, but given the British push on Africa, it will be judged publicly by its advances on the special agenda.

Bob Geldof of Pink Floyd fame has taken a lead in that campaign.
He persuaded British Prime Minister Tony Blair to set up the Commission for Africa, that has recommended radical steps governments can take to support the development of Africa.

Geldof has also supported the move by Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Gordon Brown to create the International Finance Facility (IFF) that provides for spending now of future aid commitments to Africa.

Live 8 will seek to fill media and television screens with images of public support to these moves ahead of the G8 summit.

The selection of the other venues is telling. Philadelphia will seek to show U S President George W. Bush images of what the U S public wants. Germany and Italy are among the European countries with least outlay of their gross national income (GNI) for development aid. France is the strongest champion of subsidies that impoverish developing countries, and the quality of much of its aid is questionable.

Geldof himself will perform at Hyde Park in London, on comfortable home ground. Government policy in Britain is substantially in line with campaigners for rights and support for Africa, and this is underpinned further by majority public support for a greater commitment to development aid.

The money that will be raised by the free concerts will be more an indicator of a mood than a substantial sum that can directly fund development work.

Political power will be challenged by pop power. Performers in London will include U2, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, REM, Paul McCartney and Madonna, with a likely appearance by The Spice Girls.

Other performers will include Will Smith, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder and P.Diddy in Philadelphia; Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lauryn Hill and Brian Wilson in Berlin; Jamiroquai, Youssou N’Dour, Yannick Noah and Placebo in Paris, and Duran Duran in Rome.

“This is not Live Aid 2,” Geldof said at an announcement for the concerts in London Tuesday. “These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison.”

The concerts, he said, are “a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the eight world leaders at G8 an end to poverty.”

The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history, Geldof said. “They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough. By doubling aid, fully canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”

The concert in London will also seek to rouse people to demonstrate at Scotland capital Edinburgh during the G8 summit, since Gleneagles, about 45 minutes drive away, will be unapproachable. Geldof said he would aim for demonstrations that are a million strong.

The concerts, and the demonstrations, are being backed strongly by the Make Poverty History campaign launched jointly by several hundred non-governmental organisations. That campaign seeks cancellation of debt of the poorest nations, more and better development aid, and promotion of fair trade.

“There is more than a chance that the boys and girls with guitars finally get to tilt the world on its axis,” Geldof said. He has also invited Pope Benedict XVI to the concert in London. ‘‘I think he should turn up,’’ he said. ‘‘It would be

his first gig.”—IPS