MTV has focused its gaze on 50 Cent and Tom Cruise, but now, with the upcoming Live 8 concerts and the G8 summit, it’s time to put all eyes on the person spearheading this year’s meeting: British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
On Friday (July 1), MTV aired a one-hour special in which Blair discussed his plans for the G8 meeting (to be held July 6-9 in Scotland), took questions from kids and pop stars around the world, and was joined by Bob Geldof, organizer of the Live 8 concerts (see “50 Cent, Jay-Z, Mariah, U2, Coldplay On Board For Massive Live Aid Sequel” ).
The G8, leaders of the world’s eight richest countries (see “What Is The G8, Anyway?” ), meets annually to discuss the world’s most pressing economic, social and political issues, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, trade and the environment — which happen to be the same topics on the minds of those who attended Thursday’s taping of “All Eyes on Tony Blair.”
The first question came from Destiny’s Child. “Why is it important for the richest countries to help the poorest countries?” they asked (see “Bush Proposes Doubling Aid To Africa Over Next Five Years” ).
“It’s important for two reasons,” Blair replied. “Even whilst we’ve been speaking there are scores of children that have died, preventably, in Africa. I think that’s a pretty powerful moral reason for acting in respect of Africa. But I also think there’s another reason: Africa is the only continent in the world in the last 30 years that’s gone backwards in terms of the living standard of people.”
Kanye West was also on hand to pick the prime minister’s brain. He asked if Blair thought the big multinational companies in the diamond industry should contribute to the development of the countries in Africa, since it is from those communities that they derive their wealth.
Blair said he thought they should. “We’ve got an initiative that I’ve tried to put together before that we hope we’ll get support for [that requires] these big multinational companies that go and do business in Africa [to be] open about what they’re paying and to whom. So we make sure they’re not paying money out in bribery and corruption,” Blair said.
“The second thing,” he continued, “is to try and get them to involve themselves in their own local communities so that, as well as making money, they’re also actually helping with the local projects and developing the local communities. And the third thing is we do actually need those countries to go and invest there. I mean, part of the solution to Africa’s problems lies from within Africa.”
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Other questions involved climate change and what can be done about global warming. One girl from the U.S. asked if Blair was getting enough support over global warming from President Bush, given the support Blair and England have given to the war in Iraq.
“Well, I sort of look at it as a trade, but I would like to see America come in as part of a consensus in the international community,” Blair said.
When talk turned to making trade fair, Geldof jumped in. “What must be lifted are the trade restrictions that are inherent in the debt[-relief] package, which says you must open up your trade to us. Why? Africa has 2 percent of total world trade; we’ve got 98 percent. ’We demand you open your markets for us’? All that happens is we then destroy local markets. I’d like to see that gone,” he said. “That could happen [at the G8 summit], couldn’t it, Tony?”
“Possibly, Bob,” Blair laughed. “Of course.”
Later, an audience member from South Wales asked Geldof what would be the minimum Blair needs to achieve at the G8 summit to say he’s been successful.
“The reality is that he’s pushed the boat out more than any politician I’ve known,” Geldof said. “We’re getting there, [but] we need a final push. That’s going to be Saturday. Five and half billion people, almost the totality of humanity. He’s going to say to seven other guys, ’I come with the largest democratic mandate ever collected in the history of this planet to do this.’ Now, they can refuse or they can accept. If they refuse, I think it’s fair that he can walk out and say, ’I tried, they refused.’ I’ll back him up because I actually know the process of how hard it’s been tried.”
He added that regardless of what happens behind closed doors at G8, he would not take no for an answer. “Be aware, plan B is that we keep watching people dying,” Geldof said. “That’s not acceptable.”
MTV will be bringing you all of the Live 8 action — including live performances, interviews and more — starting at noon ET on July 2. More details will be announced soon.
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.
[This article was updated on 07.02.2005 at 7:55 AM EDT]