Live 8 and the Development of Africa

The Live 8 concert is over and the influence
it may have on the G-8 Summit is yet to be seen. It is a noble effort. But
will it result in meaningful change?

The Live 8 concerts are over and their influence on the G-8 Summit is yet to be seen. The concerts advance a noble idea–to build a global voice to call upon leaders of the world’s industrialized nations to cancel the debt of developing nations and increase development aid.

I thought Brad Pitt was very effective in stating the case for personal responsibility toward Africa’s plight in the clip that I saw. He approached eloquence by keeping his remarks simple and factual. He’s also done a good job stating the case in the interviews I’ve seen.

I think Bono’s and Pitt’s motivations and commitment to end poverty are hopeful signs and both are making a positive contribution toward creating awareness of the need for development aid and debt cancellation.

What happens next is most important, however, and it’s here that such campaigns have been less effective in the past. Celebrity-based “movements” have mostly sputtered. They don’t create a constituency for foreign assistance, at least not in the United States.

In Europe and Scandinavia there has consistently been a stronger constituency for global aid but it’s not the result of mass events such as Live 8. It’s the result of education, past colonial relationships and proximity to the African continent among other reasons. As a result, the European Union has for years provided more financial assistance per capita than the U.S., much of it going to Africa.

The constituency for foreign assistance in the U.S. is a miniscule 1% of the population. Hardly enough to even be recognized by politicians who vote on the budget. To the degree that Live 8 creates a lasting constituency that expresses its support for policy change, it will achieve success. Something less than that, however, leaves us in the same place we were before with the small benefit that a few more people might give ending poverty a second thought. But second thoughts aren’t enough when facing the urgent, critical needs of survival that the world’s poorest people face every day.

Bono and Pitt understand this. We can only hope that those who were introduced to this concern take home a commitment to urgent change as well and that the concert was merely the start of a long-term commitment to find their voice and use it to end poverty.

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