A week with Bono and Bill Gates campaigning for development assistance

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“A rock star and a millionaire on the steps of the Elysée Palace”, that’s what the French media said again and again. The situation is clearly unusual. For a few days Bono traded his three U2 fellows for Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder, with whom he shares his humanitarian action which aims at helping Third-World countries to develop. This week the duo went to Berlin, Brussels, Paris and then London in order to meet European leaders and encourage them to go on with their help programs.

Author: Pauline

Translation: Florian

Monday, October 8th : Berlin

Bono and President Joachim Gauck

Bono and Bill Gates have been involved in a partnership for more than 10 years. Bill Gates considers himself such a pair as « odd » yet convincing thanks to the financial power and popularity both men represent.

Twelve years ago Bill Gates and his wife Melinda founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a philantropic foundation which aims at improving care and education in poor countries. As far as he is concerned, Bono created the ONE organization back in 2004,which goal is also to help developing countries by fighting poverty and pandemics in Africa. Throughout their commitment both men want to raise public awareness and pressure political leaders.

Bono et Bill Gates started their campaign by visiting the first economic power in Europe: Germany. Bono talked with President Joachim Gauck for about twenty minutes before meeting ONE members. Few information leaked from this interview but there’s no doubt Bono‘s persuasion power succeeded in convincing Joachim Gauck to help fight poverty.

Tuesday, October 9th: Brussels

Bono and the European Parliament’s President Martin Schulz

On Tuesday Bono was in Belgium in order to prevent the funding of development assistance to fighting poverty from being hit by the financial cutbacks the European Union wants to set up for the 2014-2020 budget. His schedule for that day le dhim to meet and convince the presidents of the three main UE institutions: José Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission), Martin Schulz (President of the Europen Parliament), and Herman Van Rompuy (Président of the European Council).

After the meeting with Bono, José Manuel Barroso stated: « Saving lives and preventing disease are both a human imperative and a smart investment on which responsible governments and international organisations must deliver. I will therefore push for member states to agree the Commission’s proposal for a 20% increase in external aid for the next European budget.» Mission accomplished for Bono: he managed to maintain the European assistance and maybe get it increased.

As far as Martin Schulz is concerned, he agreed with Bono on supporting the development assiatance and added: « European development aid, after all, is one of the EU’s greatest successes, changing the lives of millions of people all over the world, from measles vaccines to access to water, to the education of women and children. »

Wednesday, October 10th: Paris

Bono, Bill Gates and the French President François Hollande. Photo ©REUTERS

On the next day our two very busy activists stopped in Paris. After a visit to the Treasury Department and a meeting with Pierre Moscovici (chancellor of the exchequer),Bono et Bill Gates headed to the Elysée Palace where French President François Hollande was expecting them for a discussion which last 45 minutes.

France, which is the fourth world contributor to development assistance (0,46% of its gross national income, that’s to say €9.35 billion), decided it would maintain the funds used to fight poverty. Moreover, 10% of the income from the financial transaction tax will be dedicated to this fight. Bono insisted on thanking the French people for their support: « The French support more than any European country using this approach and we want to thank them, especially in these difficult times of crisis. Me, I’m a rock star who is extremely rich and spoiled so I understand even better the sacrifices that are made. »

Bono, Bill Gates and President Hollande also talked about the situation in Sahel – a country in which more than 18 million people suffer from food scarcity, and about the need for financial transparency from the extractive and forestry industries in order to fight corruption.

Thursday, October 11th: London

Bono and Nick Clegg, the English vice-Prime Minister. Photo ©Getty Images

Last stop of this humanitarian journey: England. Bono has a meeting with the chancellor of the exchequer Joe Swinson, and United Kingdom’s vice-Prime Minister Nick Clegg. U2 ‘s singer saw in Nick Clegg an ally to fight for more transparence from companies; the vice-Prime Minister even underlined: « There need to be strict new rules about how payments to developing countries from the oil, gas and mining industries are recorded».

It looks like the week the weird duo composed of Bono and Bill Gates experienced showed results: the main European leaders reiterated their support to the humanitarian cause, regarding both the aid spent on Third-World countries and the need for transparency from companies. The next few months will be crucial ones as they will confirm – or not – what was promised by those governments and institutions.

the last word to Bill Gates, who wrote on his blog this week: « Melinda and I have many friends, allies and valued partners in our philanthropic work, but few as creative, energetic and inspiring as Bono. ».

Copyright 2012 U2 France / http://www.u2france.com/actu