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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…

Gordon Brown delivered a speech with passion, vision, and clarity this morning at the UN. With all of the weight of national politics and a reeling economy on his shoulders, the prime minister powerfully and forcefully raised the sights of the world to fulfill the hopes raised by the Millennium Development Goals. And he got specific: decisive malaria control, massive deployment of community health workers, 24m more children in school by 2010, and seed and fertiliser for millions of hungry subsistence farm families in 30 poor countries. Great speech, vision, and global leadership.

Despite the US financial crisis, the world is not paralysed on the challenges of poverty and climate change.  The world is moving forward, with or without the US  Ministers of environment and development gathered at the UN early today to put forward highly innovative strategies for addressing the global climate change crisis.  Specific, bold, and creative approaches were presented – by Switzerland, the European Commission, Norway, Mexico, and other countries.  An emerging theme: we should use carbon taxation (or the auctioning of carbon permits) to shift economies to sustainable energy, and use the carbon revenues to meet global challenges. According to the Swiss Government’s proposal, a $2 per ton levy on carbon dioxide would raise around $48bn per year, money that could
play a critical role in helping impoverished countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals and to adapt to climate change. I believe that we’ll be hearing a lot more about carbon levies in the months ahead, as a practical approach to climate change control and development finance.

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 onevote08.org/ontherecord, 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.

At moment when American politics seem to be in a meltdown at least as bad as the financial meltdown, it’s reassuring to know that leaders in other parts of the world are doing their job, and doing it well.  All through the day today at the UN, governments put forward important and novel strategies to fight disease, poverty, and human-induced climate change.  This morning, the governments of Switzerland and Norway, and the European Commission came forward with specific proposals to put a levy on carbon in order to finance development and climate adaptation in poor countries.  The Government of Norway has also described its recent partnership with Brazil, in which Norway has committed $1bn to slow deforestation in the Amazon – with the money paid to Brazil upon performance.

The afternoon was no less exciting.  Superstars Shakira and Alejandro Sanz brought several Latin American Presidents together to discuss ways to protect and promote early childhood development (children under six years) in Latin America.  This was no mere photo op. President after President, including Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Martin Torrijos of Panama, Antonio Saca of El Salvador and newly elected President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, all spoke movingly about the plight of the poor, and knowledgably and with considerable technical detail about innovative programs to reach the poor young children with health care, nutrition, and early schooling.

The world is not the US, seeing enemies everywhere (hence, the 31 mentions of “terror” in President Bush’s UN speech on Tuesday), or parroting some ludicrous laissez faire ideology, or simply looking away from the real global challenges of climate, poverty, environment, and population. The world is rallying to the need to solve dire problems, and the US financial crisis, rather than paralysing the UN meetings, is strangely adding a measure of grit and determination to the global problem solving underway in session after session.

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.

President Bush’s speech before the United Nations was literally terrifying. He mentioned “terror” (or “terrorists” or “terrorism”) 32 times, “extremists” 7 times, and “tyranny” 4 times. “Millennium Development Goals, “climate change,” and “environment,” did not merit a single reference. “Disease” got 3 mentions, while “poverty” and “education’ each got 2. “Health” got 1.

The imbalance in the President’s approach to the world is stunning. This is the week, after all, in which the world leaders have assembled at the United Nations to ensure the success of the Millennium Development Goals, now at their halfway mark to 2015. This is the year in which progress in climate change was to be made in advance of a planned Copenhagen Protocol next year.

It is this relentless disregard for the concerns of the rest of the world that has sent the U.S. into its biggest tailspin in modern history. The U.S. stands alone, diplomatically, financially, and politically. Or more accurately, the world feels the brunt of U.S. neglect, whether its neglect of poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, or financial market regulation.

The U.S. Government willfully ignores, or seems to be unaware, of its own commitments in these areas. After all, the U.S. Government committed in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002 (with Bush present), to make concrete efforts to reach 0.7 percent of GNP in official development assistance. The U.S. Government committed in Rio in 1992 (with Bush’s father present) to stabilize greenhouse gases to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference.

One might have thought that with miserable economic mismanagement by the Bush Administration now threatening the entire global economy, Bush might have been slightly more attuned to the needs and concerns of the rest of the world.

He might have offered his good offices to address common problems. But we should know better by now. For that approach we will have to await the next Administration, and indeed hope for the best.

America’s ill-conceived and even worse-implemented “war on terror” has actually stoked terror while leaving neglected the very basic factors – poverty, famine, bulging populations, financial plunder – that have done so much to foment global instability.

Yesterday, Oxford Professor Paul Collier wrote in the New York Times that the Millennium Development Goals were “devoid of strategy”.  The meetings yesterday at the UN made a mockery of such claims. World technology leaders like Ericsson, media trendsetters like MTV, social campaigners like Oxfam, and dozens of leaders and community activists in poor countries told story after story of strategic breakthroughs: malaria coming under control, child survival soaring, mobile phones empowering village-based businesses and emergency medical response teams, food production tripling.  The goals of ending poverty, hunger, and disease will succeed; the question is not if but when.

Ending extreme poverty is complicated problem solving, with hundreds or thousands of hands on the jigsaw puzzle. Ingenuity abounds. It has to, since the name of the game is to make huge social and economic progress with extraordinarily limited resources.  Many great solutions were discussed yesterday, such as Malawi’s voucher programme to double food production, and UNICEF’s mass distribution of anti-malaria bed nets.  Governments in poor countries are showing guts, such as Rwanda’s efforts, described yesterday by the Foreign Minister, to reduce population growth through the active, high-profile promotion of voluntary fertility reduction.

Not if but when. When the world loses time on scaling up the dramatic successes described yesterday, children die – roughly 9m per year.  Young children lose vital nutrition, causing a lifetime of disabilities.  Kids stay out of school, guaranteeing a lifetime of poverty.  When solutions are taken quickly, infant mortality and malaria deaths plummet, as has occurred in Rwanda in the past three years.

Many countries were at the table yesterday, but some big ones were exceptionally quiet.  The US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada, think that the MDGs are a spectator sport.  Yes, the U.S. has stepped up its financing of disease control, but its overall aid level of 0.16 per cent of national income is the lowest of all rich countries (and compared with far more than 4 per cent of national income for the military).  Why aren’t successes being scaled up?  Not for lack of solutions and strategy, but for lack of follow through by the rich countries that promised (and promised and promised) to help.

The UN meetings were abuzz that the US could find $700 billion for a bailout of its corrupt and errant banks but couldn’t find a small fraction of that for the world’s poor and dying.  It didn’t make sense to the world community.  The puzzlement was all the greater since the very banks being bailed out so generously had awarded themselves more than $30 billion in bonuses early this year, roughly the world’s entire aid budget for 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

If there was one message from the UN gathering yesterday, it was No More Excuses.  Clearly the strategies are in place and have been proved; successes at local and country scale abound; the money exists to end poverty; remarkable partnerships are in place, and the momentum is growing. Will the rich and powerful be part of the solution?

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 FT.com 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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