Monday, 26 November 2012

Reflections on #whypoverty - Evaluating Bob Geldof and Bono's Live 8 campaign

Should celebrities be involved in International Development?

Bob Geldof and Bono's participation in international development through Live 8 has long been debated since the 1980s. The BBC and Open University documentary 'Give us your money' in the Why Poverty series recently bought to light many issues surroundiung the celebrity culture of international development and poverty relief. Should aid work only be left to the experts?  Can celebrities in international development do more harm than good?

The Live 8 Campaign of Bob Geldof and Bono

The Live 8 campaign of 1985 raised between 50K and 70K to help relieve poverty in some of the world's most poorest nations. Inspired by the Ethiopian famine, Bob Geldfof and Bono quickly realised that they could use their celebrity status to 'Make Poverty History' and influence the world and it's most influential polititians.

Criticism of the Live 8 Campaign

Despite their best intetnions in the Live 8 campaign, it has been heavily criticised by aid workers and some African thinkers themselves. The images of white people 'saving' black people dominated the media, and presented a negative view of Africa.  Arguiably, celebrity involvement in poverty relief undermines African leadership. Perhaps celebrities should not be the voice of Africa, Africans should be the voice of Africa. Yet whose voice would be more likely to be heard?

A key question in this debate is 'was the money raised through Band Aid and Live 8 spent in the right way?' If developing countries' debts had been repayed, this would ammounted to more money than was raised.  Sending food to Africa, specifically Ethiopia is short term aid, rather than a long term solution to the issue.  The Live 8 campaign has also been heavily criticised by David Rieff, who argues that these guilt-stricken donations helped fund a brutal resettlement programme that may have killed up to 100,000. The BBC portrayal of the Ethiopian famine implied that millions of pounds of Band Aid and Live Aid money was diverted into arms sales, but they later apologies to Bob Geldof for this Broadcast.

Praise for the Live 8 Campaign

Despite these criticisms, Bob Geldof and Bono's Live 8 campaign encouraged people to think about poverty in a way in which they had never thought about it before. It created an overwhelming response, and gave people a great deal of education about some of the surrounding issues.

Bono himself recognised that there was much more to it than sending money for food. He said "I'm a singer in a Rock 'n' Roll band, this was economics, so I had to go to school!"  This was the turning point when the campaign reviewed the focus and concentrated on issues of world debt and reframing the HIV and AIDS debate. Bono targeted Conservative US senates and challenged the way that they thought of HIV, shifting the focus from sinful sexual transmission to child transmission and orphans. The realisation of the importance of government lobbying had now set in.

The Make Poverty History Campaign

The 'Make Poverty History' campaign of 2005 focused on three key targets...

  1. To eradicate the debt that developing countries owed to the 'Western World'
  2. To reform trade laws to encourage growth
  3. To double International Aid

Ok, the 'Make Poverty History' campaign didn't make poverty history, but it was a step in the right direction.  Many politicians didn't keep their promises on aid and trade. Yet lives were saved through the campaign, Let's look at the positives - awareness was raised dramatically. Ethiopia has more children going to school since 2005.  Bono now agrees that 'the way forward is for Africa to stand on it's own feet, and I would love popstars to be told to fuck off'!

To find out more about this fantastic debate, watch the BBC's Why Poverty.

What do you think?

What are your opinions on the Live 8 and Make Poverty History Campaign? More harm than good, or a step in the right direction? Do leave your opinion on our blog.

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