Myself, Bob and the ONE team met with Japanese PM Aso on his ten-hour flying visit to NYC to discuss manga comics. Well yes and no. We did discuss manga as the PM is an enthusiast. Bob modestly explained that we were like manga superheroes, and then there was a fight about who was Batman and who was Robin. Or more like Mutt and Jeff. Though New York is more like Gotham City than ever, with Wall Street turning into a dark alley in the last week, Gotham’s streets don’t seem so golden.

PM Aso was quick on his feet, not even spending one night here as he had to return to address the Diet after just a few days in power to make his first big policy address. We discussed how the Japanese led briefly in the early 1990s on aid, in volume terms, and indeed the greatest success stories in development are in Southeast Asia, formerly recipients of Japanese aid and their model of development. We hope that Japan will focus more and more on the continent of Africa, driving some healthy competition with the Chinese, perhaps.

Extreme poverty moved to the center of the debate at the UN yesterday. The momentum from meeting to meeting was palpable. These weren’t stuffy affairs; the rooms were stuffed with activists – activists from the corporate boardroom as much as the college classroom. Activists on the inside as well as the outside. Fighting extreme poverty is being redescribed here not as a burden, a legacy of the past, but as an exciting opportunity, a way to shape the future and build new bridges. People are learning how to communicate and celebrate success and use the stories of lives saved and children educated as the way to accelerate more progress. With talent like Richard Curtis and Simon Fuller (American Idol) hanging out with people like Rear Admiral Ziemer and Bill Gates, you know something interesting is happening. Even amidst talk of a meltdown, there’s talk of the millennium development goals…how we can achieve them, removing the obstacles, taking excuses out of the room and backing slogans with plans. Education for all, malaria no more. These issues can be dismissed – no more.

No finer proof of that than last night, at a small private dinner hosted by the Mayor of Gotham, Mike Bloomberg, in honor of Gordon Brown. Private sector leaders were there to hear his call to action against poverty.  The PM was funny, brilliant and most importantly, persuasive. By encouraging these meetings to happen the last few days, Brown has helped reinject momentum into the millennium goals, and they are duly revived, following a booster shot in the arm when spirits could have been flagging.

There’s more than enough material with which to make the case. This week we’ve been reminded how world leaders got together in 2000, and again in 2005, and because of that there are millions more children in school, millions more people living with AIDS who still are living, and thousands – soon to be millions – fewer children succumbing to malaria. And more.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, there are 18 non-oil economies in Africa which have grown now at 5.5% for a decade, countries which on average have seen a 66% increase in aid, most are democracies and most have received full debt cancellation. With statistics like these it proves it’s still time to aid Africa. But it also proves it’s time to invest in Africa.  Any remaining capital out there couldn’t find a better long-term bet than the African subcontinent, that’s my tip for the week.

It’s undeniable, there simply has been fantastic success and it’s a crime these breakthroughs against poverty aren’t better known. Can all of you out there in the blogosphere please focus on these statistics of success and help me understand why they aren’t better known? (We’ve an ad up on the site which Bill Gates and I introduced at a Millennium Goal rally the other night, which explores some of these statistics in snappy style if you want them delivered in more entertaining a form.) If there’s one thing that this week must start to change it is this storyline; that Africa is a hopeless case. In fact, even in troubling times, it is a very hopeful place.

Take Libera, whose president I met on Wednesday. So recently wracked by war, this nation now has Africa first female leader. She has doubled school enrollment, and immunized 85% of the kids just in the lst few years. The people are starting to see a peace dividend. That’s a very hopeful story. But they need to see more and we need them to see President Johnson Sirleaf deliver for her people. And here’s where the FT comes in. A year back these pages carried a story about the “IMF-ing outrage” of the time, the slow progress of debt cancellation for Liberia. I’m pleased to say that following the FT coverage, a debt deal got largely cobbled together. But there’s one outstanding piece; $1.7bn of private commercial debt, old loans from the 70s, which through the magic of compound interest has morphed into a mountain. Hopefully a donor-funded debt buy-back deal can be agreed soon, and the hedge funds which have bought the debts won’t behave like vulture funds. But let’s be clear. If vultures are eyeing Liberia’s predicament, circling with intent, let’s let them know we re watching them, with intent. And let’s learn from this. As global policymakers are rewriting the financial rules over the coming days and weeks and months, let’s encourage them to ensure a fairer and more transparent system for dealing with such debts going forward. Funny how the commentators who railed against moral hazard when we campaigned to drop the debt, are a little less vocal at the moment. And Liberia’s case proves the bigger point. Africa may be aid dependent, but it wont be forever, we just need to do the right things now, with the right leaders, and they will absolutely drive their economic growth and poverty reduction, a la southeast Asia.

A big day and a big week to big up the Millennium Development Goals. Now this momentum must move on. Swelling towards the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank next month in DC, then rolling on through the drama of the US elections towards the opportunity of the Doha financing for development summit at the end of November. This is a great moment for the Gulf states, who have been well represented here, to step up and lead the world on financing for development. They are not there yet, though Qatar’s move towards 0.7 is significant. The Emir of Qatar has some great great plans, and I hear so do the Abu Dhabians, and “Dubai cares” too, and the Saudis stepped up with $500m towards education… watch this space. One intriguing undercurrent is the possibilities of carbon financing for development. There will be side meetings at the Annual IFI meetings about this, and Doha coincides with the Posnan meetings on climate change, debating a post-Kyoto deal. Justice would suggest that whatever grand bargain is struck on carbon globally, the backbone of any deal must help redress the wrongs inflicted on the most marginalized and first and worst impacted by climate change – mainly in Africa.

So the week capitalism went up on trial has provided some interesting speeches from the dock. The one no one was expecting was how we can put our technological prowess and  innovation  to  the service of  the poorest and most vulnerable peoples, building new allies through a sense of fairness and, yes, “new customers” and trading partners. And therein lies a clue for how this globalisation can work for the many rather than the few.

To borrow a term of one of my mentors and tormentors, Bill Gates, if ever there was a time for “creative capitalism” it is now.

Thanks for reading. I’ve enjoyed the week at the service of the FT. The next time I enter the blogosphere it will be about music… far more appropriate for a rockstar. It’s time to shut up and sing, but it was rock and roll that taught me the world was more malleable than anyone knew, that it could be shaped by kicks and caresses, but better by reason.  What I didn’t know was that numbers can be more important than words.

P.S. keeping an eye on my blackberry for news of the French aid budget.

Blogging has been a little difficult as we’ve been in meetings all day, heavily guarded ones where a Blackberry under the table is likely set off an alarm. Secret Service agents are tripping over each others’ earpieces.

A quick update.

First, I can see a duck with a golden beak opposite. The UN is full of surprises.

Second. Due to gridlock in Manhattan and the markets yesterday, our ONE campaign meeting with Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin morphed into a phone call. Amongst other things, we discussed malaria, that preventable treatable disease that means 2,200 kids in Africa die each day because of a mosquito bite. There’s a lot of excitement at the UN today because it looks like we are finally going to squash those bugs, metaphorically speaking. Senators Obama and McCain both spoke at CGI earlier to commit to this if they get elected. I went to the Malaria No More event where Bill Gates and Gordon Brown, Bob Zoellick, Global Fund chair Rajat Gupta and a host of developing world presidents lead by President Kikwete of Tanzania (who also leads the African Union) declared war on the bloodsucking anopheles mosquitoes in countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda, where dramatic scale up of bed nets has cut deaths by more than half.  WOW, seriously WOW. The room committed an extra $3bn to the drive of “no more malarial deaths by 2015.” Hosting the event are Ray Chambers and Peter Chernin who have pulled the private sector in – their money and their know-how. It’s a new model.

I enjoyed an exchange with three great African presidents, President Kikwete of Tanzania, President Kagame of Rwanda and President Kufour of Ghana. All speak eloquently on behalf of their people and want to be accountable to their people. Inspiring modernists with great dignity.

Three. The Irish Hunger Taskforce announced its findings first thing this morning. I was a little bleary eyed and so was co-blogger Jeff Sachs. The Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach, is rightly praised by Jeff, and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who even pronounces Taoiseach perfectly, ie, “tee shock” (elsewhere in the UN he is known as the great Buddhist leader TAO shock).  Anyway, Brian Cowen has really come behind all this stuff, and is supporting reallocating the unspent CAP money to help with the food crisis in Africa.  We may not have been the most sightly of panels but I hope our argument and passion made up for it. (Note to self: don’t stay out past midnight or you turn into a potato). By the way, the Secretary General is the quietest storm in town. A very special man.

Four. Met with Gordon Brown, who gives of his heart, soul and head to this stuff. His leadership on behalf of the poorest of the poor has been extraordinary. Aussie PM Kevin Rudd described him today as “the continuing conscience of the G8.”

Talked to him about the need for Europe to show it can move fast in a crisis, i.e., let’s make sure the billion euro emergency relief does not get incapacitated by the Brussels euro bubble and babble.

Me and Bob, Mutt n Jeff, as Bob now refers to us, then had a meeting with President Zapatero of Spain. A really striking and modest man who has led his country toward the top of the charts on our issues. Spain has shot up from giving 0.24 per cent of GDP to aid in 2004 to giving 0.41 percent. His maxim is simple: Europe needs a moral compass and values to gather round.

Now off to meet the new premier of Japan, Prime Minister Aso, and late… very bad, I’ll blame the FT… then off to a private sector dinner with Bloomberg and PM Brown.

Five. The French budget tomorrow. On my mind.

Six. Full MDG report, will do tomorrow.

P.S. Seven. Heard Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch discussing the state of play in the economy last night. If only I could blog on that. It was off the record. I have let you down…

Ah… the life of the single issue protagonist. Here’s a peep inside our brain, a scene setter.

The ONE campaign has two and half million members, who urge us to make the case for increased aid as a key plank in America’s new foreign policy. ONE T-shirts have been turning up in town hall meetings for 18 months now, haranguing, hassling, but ultimately endearing themselves to all the presidential campaigns. They want the world to see what America has to offer the billion people who live on less than a dollar a day – practically speaking: medicine, new seed varieties, technology, know-how; policy speaking: what should America do more of? what should America do less of?

They want the world to understand that America is not just a country but an idea, a contagious idea, committed to promoting the inalienable right that all men and women are created equal; that your street address should not be a death sentence in what Warren Buffet refers to as the “ovarian lotto”; that love thy neighbour is not advice, but a command.

ONE members are thrilled that Barack Obama and John McCain both have an open door policy with the our campaign. But I must admit, today, as I step through one of those doors to talk with Senator McCain and Governor Palin, the Irish rockstar in me is a little nervous about the circus rolling over the town rather than through it. We know the flash bulbs and hysteria around the presidential campaign make it hard to concentrate on the substance of the ideas we’ve got to discuss ie development as an essential third plank of foreign policy, along with diplomacy and defence.

It’s a tribute to the generosity of Americans that they let this Irishman get away with quoting back at them The Declaration of Independence like it’s the liner notes to my favourite Bob Dylan album (but it sort of is). Anyway we’ve now met with nearly a dozen of the presidential candidates in the course of their campaigns and of the four candidates left, three have declared their positions at, if you want to check them out.

On AIDS for example, Senators Obama and McCain both cosponsored the historic $48bn US AIDS initiative this year – an effort lead by Joe Biden – who I might add also fought in the trenches for debt cancellation for the poorest of the poor when I first started down this road. So it will be interesting to find out where Governor Palin stands.

Just a couple of years ago it would have been impossible for the issue of extreme poverty to play even a tiny role in the American political season. So far this year, all candidates have made positive noises, rooted in the most pragmatic of thinking about how America reintroduces itself to the world after the election. When even the defence minister pitches your roving rockstar the idea that an increase in aid is essential, you know something’s happening.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how I get on. Fingers crossed that the world’s poor do not become a pawn in any candidate’s game, but instead influence the players to make moves on their behalf.

Gridlock in the streets as well as the markets here. Yellow cab drivers red in the face as they honk their horns at the diplomatic motorcades hovering around the east side. I think I saw Prime Minister Wen walking in Central Park early morning, unless it was a decoy. The guns of the US secret service a few feet behind looked real enough. Maybe the premier was fed up of waiting at the lights.

Lots of speeches etc going on inside the UN… President Bush, President Sarkozy. We’re on the outside today, meeting activists from Africa, India and Europe to talk about holding the people on the inside accountable for their promises.

The promises in question this week are the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs (check out my blogger-in-arms Jeff Sachs). (Side note from someone who works in the communication business: the proliferation of acronyms mean that working on this stuff is like drowning in alphabet soup. There is no sense of PR….it’s easy to lose your audience when you are talking in letters rather than words…)

We’ll be talking a lot about where we are falling short on the MDGs, but it’s worth also talking about the good news.

Since the turn of the millennium, 29m more kids are in school in Africa.

Since 2002, 2m Africans are on lifesaving ARVS.

Since 2003, 59m bednets have been distributed in Africa. In the last 2 years, Rwanda and Ethiopia have cut malaria cases and deaths by more than 50%.

For those of you, the many of you, questioning aid on this site, you’re not wrong to suggest that it’s not the only answer. Of course it’s not. It’s trade, it’s governance, it’s private investment. But aid is critical… ask Germany, ask Ireland. See it as a leg-up, not a hand-out.

I’m not talking about the aid of the 20th century by the way. For too many years, much aid was wasted and ended up redecorating presidential palaces instead of building hospitals. That was our corruption as well as theirs. Handing over billions of dollars to a corrupt dictator because he isn’t a Commie, knowing he will use it to suppress discontent and swell personal bank accounts – that makes you complicit. But, this is a new century, and a new understanding of aid and partnership means that we are starting to see different results.

I’m writing this waiting for the Voice of Africa, Youssou N’Dour, so before he comes, here is some feedback on our meeting with President Barroso yesterday… he is going after this one billion dollars of unspent EU money sitting in Brussels. It’s part of the CAP (thoughts on that are a whole other blog). Unspent because food prices are too high for European farmers to qualify for it.

The president wants this money to go instead to support farmers in Africa. Seeds and fertilisers in 30 countries where the rains are about to fall on empty fields because their custodians have nothing to plant. 935m people going hungry each night, and it’s about to get even worse. 75m in the last year.

There is some dissent about this and a big part of the reason is bureaucracy. In an emergency situation, do we in Europe really want to be defined by bureaucracy? One of the things we discussed with President Barroso (before drawing up a hit list of who we go after) was the fact that Europe is a thought, but not yet a feeling. People think about Europe, but they don’t ‘feel’ it. Sometimes it’s easy to see why.

Tough meeting with the Président de la République of France. He’s a tough guy. We like tough guys because they get straight down to business. They don’t waste their time or yours.  The French budget is out this Friday and in it we will see if France intends continuing its leadership role on the continent of Africa.  In the last few years, French aid has been falling.

My point was that as much as Africa needs French aid and the energy that Sarkozy himself provides, he/we need Africa. Why?  Africa has never been so strategically important as it is now, economically and politically. Just ask the Chinese. Over a million of them now live in the continent of Africa – their single biggest diaspora.  Every time you make a cell phone call you make it with the help of coltan, an African metallic ore.  It’s a rich continent: zinc, copper, oil, gas, silver, gold, diamonds… Just for its resources Africa will play a critical role in how the 21st century is shaped.  If we want to breathe we’re going to need African cooperation on climate change (Congo is the second biggest rainforest on earth.)  Anyway, I tell you all this to point out that while there is a meltdown happening on the markets and in our banking systems, you FT readers should keep one eye on the opportunity of Africa.  Seventeen non-oil rich countries have had growth rates averaging 5.5 per cent over the last 10 years, etc etc.

The other eye should be on our moral obligation not to break promises that we’ve made to the poorest of the poor, if we expect the respect and the business of those same populations in the future.

Sarko is a real physical presence in a room. He might even be taller than me… animated, funny one minute; annoyed the next.  I admire his energy and vision.  We need him.  His radical proposal for a Mediterranean union is an example of his thinking differently, challenging orthodoxy. We want him to apply his innovativeness to the business of aid… its time for some new ideas.  But he’s also going to have to fund them. And there’s the rub. He’s not averse. At one point in the meeting he reached across and grabbed my arm: “You know, Africa is Europe’s next door neighbour… 13 kilometres from us… our fate is bound up in theirs… it’s in our own self interest.”  The meeting started with the beautiful Carla Bruni, a great ally in our efforts to better our storytelling about the effectiveness of good aid.  Both the first lady and the president change the molecular structure of any room they are in – he speeds them up, she calms them down.  A great team.

Off to meet the head honcho at the EU, President Barroso, now.  Let you know tomorrow how I got on. Other things to watch out for this week: Wearing my ONE campaign hat, I should be meeting up with Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin; hoping to see Senator Obama and Senator Joe Biden in the next few weeks. The ONE campaign has an ongoing relationship with Senators McCain and Obama.  Both have agreed that increased and effective aid is a critical part of American foreign policy in a world where inequality conjures instability and where making friends is a lot cheaper than defending yourself against new enemies.

As the sun arcs over the Manhattan skyline and the markets start dancing nervously out of time, the lyrics I’ve been scribbling over breakfast have been removed and replaced by spreadsheets with large numbers in tiny font as we wrestle with EU budgets in advance of meetings later today with Presidents Sarkozy and Barroso.  It’s hard to fight for increases in aid at times like this – but that’s what I’m here for this week… stick with me, while myself and others make our case that now is precisely the time to invest in the world’s poor.  I’ll keep you posted.

The MDG blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Bono and Jeffrey Sachs blog for from the Millennium Development Goals summit and surrounding meetings in New York

Bono is lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the One campaign

Jeffrey Sachs is a development economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

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