Bono, where art thou?
Bono is not a fan of Stephen Harper right now.
The lead singer of the edgy pop group, U2, is one of the leading activists committed to raising issues of the AIDS crisis in Africa. He is convinced that Canada is avoiding ponying up our fair share of international aid funding.
Some counties in Africa have an AIDS infection rate over 30 percent of the adult population. Millions of children are orphans. Economies are crippled by lack of skilled workers. The infection rate continues to climb, although there have been isolated success stories in treating pregnant women and young children.
In Bostwanna, the average life expectancy is now around 50 years. In Zimbabwe, it is under 40 years.
Canada has stepped up to the table in a big way to work with other nations in getting concerted action to relieve the worst travesties surrounding the epidemic.
Just this last February, Harper announced a $139 million package with Microsoft’s Bill Gates to fund AIDS vaccine research.
Canada’s current African aid budget is estimated at $2.1 billion.
And at the G8 meetings last week in Germany, the leaders announced at $60 billion package of aid for international hotspots. This is unprecedented attention to struggling nations by the leading industrial economies.
So, why is the new king of pop upset?
It goes back to the 2005 G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland. At the time, the G8 leaders committed to a doubling of their aid to Africa by 2010.
Bono is frustrated that the recent announcement from this year’s meeting didn’t get more specific.
But more importantly, his feelings are also ruffled because Harper wouldn’t take time out from the international conference to meet with him. Although the meeting would have probably helped Harper’s often stodgy image, Harper’s office contends that there was too much going on during the three-day conference to meet with rock stars, no matter how popular they are.
George Bush, even more desperate for an image overhaul, did meet with Bono, as did the new German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Harper, who says he is a big U2 fan in addition to his love of the Beatles, did promise to meet with Bono after the conference and he is quoted as saying he believes that the activist is a knowledgeable and sincere person, based on previous conversations.
It is unfortunate, however, that Bono took the scheduling snafu as a reason to slam Canada’s commitment to less fortunate nations. It is ridiculous to suggest, as Bono has, that Canada is trying to derail a G8 AIDS commitment.
Unlike previous governments, Harper understands that helping African nations struggling under the burden of despair isn’t accomplished by photo-ops, but concerted, consistent action.