The Live Aid concerts in 1985 raised more than $200 million in funds for African famine relief. Yet two decades later, the world's second-largest continent continues to fight the crises — which include enormous debt, unfair trade laws and insufficient aid — threatening many of its nations.
Last month, Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof announced another landmark concert to raise awareness of extreme poverty in Africa (see "Live Aid Organizer Confirms Another 'Big Concert' Is Coming"). U2, Coldplay, Madonna, Dave Matthews Band, and Destiny's Child are among the artists confirmed for gigs slated in all of the G8 nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia) as well as South Africa (see "Good Charlotte, Bjork In For Live 8 Tokyo; Moscow Concert Added" and "What Is The G8, Anyway?").
"This is a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental," said Geldof. "The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history, but they will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough. What Live Aid did joyously was open up the avenues of possibility, and Live 8 finally allows you to walk down them."
The statistics for extreme global poverty are overwhelming: More than 1 billion people worldwide currently live on less than a dollar a day; more than 100 million children cannot afford a basic education; one child dies every three seconds due to hunger; and over 20,000 people a day lose their lives to extreme poverty.
|Live 8 artists stress debt relief, critics of the plan sound off and the G8 summit is explained in "Live 8: A Concert To End Poverty" on Overdrive.|
Global leaders and activists, like Sachs, say there are three primary pillars to ending global poverty: 100 percent cancellation of debt, doubling international aid, and allowing the opportunity for fair trade in the international market.
Countries — such as Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania — that are repaying millions of dollars in debt mostly accumulated during the Cold War could be using that money for improving their weak health systems, paving roads, immunizing children and feeding their populations. Malaria, a treatable disease, takes the lives of nearly 3 million children per year, yet the majority of people cannot afford mosquito netting, insecticide or medication.
"We've ended up in a situation where more money is going out of Africa to pay off these old debts than new money coming into Africa, so you have this tragic irony where the poorest region in the world is actually subsidizing the wealthiest institutions and economies in the world," said Salih Booker, executive director of Action Africa, a non-profit organization that responds to the challenges faced by the people of sub-Saharan Africa.
Nearly $40 billion of debt has recently been cancelled for 18 impoverished countries — 14 of which are in Africa — and up to 28 more will have their debts completely wiped out over the next few years.
But even with the debt cancelled, many millions of people in Africa will still be living in extreme poverty unless more money is brought in for development. "Basically, we need to cancel the outflow and double the inflow," said Sachs. He argues that new aid packages from the G8 countries should be structured as grants instead of loans, and should total $50 billion a year — double the current amount of $25 billion.
But if the most impoverished African nations are ever to stand on their own feet, fair trading policies must be adopted. The current rules of the World Trade Organization tend to benefit the richer countries and shut smaller entities out of the global market.
"There's hypocrisy in the international trade system," said Laura Rusu of Oxfam International, the organization that heads up the Make Trade Fair campaign. "Rich countries are telling developing countries, 'You must open your markets for our products, but we're not going to open ours.' Trade has the greatest potential to pull people out of poverty, but only if the system is fair." Rusu estimates that a 1-percent increase for Africans in the international market would amount to five times the amount it receives in aid from the worldwide community each year.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has also spoken out to mobilize action. "Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, and we can be that great generation. Millions of people in the world's poorest countries are trapped in the prison of poverty, and it is time to set them free. Poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome by the action of human beings. Let us work to make poverty history and then we can all stand with our heads held high."
The Live 8 concerts on July 2 will kick off the start of "The Long Walk to Justice," a movement that aims to inspire people demonstrate for action at the G8 Summit. The event will wrap on the eve of the summit on July 6.
Get involved: Learn about the poverty crisis in Africa, the proposed solutions, and how you can help. Plus find all of our coverage of the international Live 8 concerts and more at our thinkMTV Live 8 hub.