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Neither the G8, nor Live 8 !
3 July 2005

When we demand the cancellation of the thrid world debt we are to be keenly aware of how this can be achieved. Music can be an outstanding medium to convey our expectations and share them with a wider audience, as testified for instance by the “Drop the debt” CD, which is sold in about twenty countries, or by committed music festivals such as Les Nuits atypiques at Langon (France), Esperanzah ! to the South of Brussels[1] and several others all over the world. But what can be thought of the Live 8 approach, which allegedly goads the G8 leaders to cancel the debt and help Africa but calls upon superstars in huge global shows ?

Bob Geldof, Bono and some others have embarrked on the wrong boat for a number of reasons. First, the choice of those allowed to stop onto the hallowed Live 8 stage was largely directed by commercial criteria. How many African artists were invited to express their anger and speak in the name of their fellow citizens ? In order to be “in”, you had to have sold lots of CDs before, not to have something to say. Geldof and c°’s choice implicitly reveals once more that the voice of those who suffer because of the burden of the debt is simply not taken into account. Let us keep in mind, however, in the words of the Burkinabe historian Joseph Ki-Zerbo: “you cannot develop others, you only develop yourselves”. Any initiative aiming to fight poverty without involving the poor is doomed to failure. This is a fundamental point that the G8 has not understood - nor Live 8.

Second, the amount of money spent to set up those giant concerts (38 million euros) is at least questionable. To raise this amount Live 8 used methods that can only be disapproved of: transnational corporations were called upon whereas we know that these same corporations lobbied to enforce deregulation, market opening, and massive privatisations to countries of the South since the 1980s. Along with the rise in schooling fees, in health costs, and in the VAT, as well as the cancellation of subsidies for basic items, these very measures played a major part in the spreading of poverty through Africa. On Geldof’s invitation Bill Gates spoke up in Hyde Park for Live 8! No comment.

Third, what kind of culture is highlighted in Live 8 ? A culture made in North America and Europe, predominantly in English. A culture that is already enforced on a global scale by the leisure industry (which is the main export industry in the US). A culture that stifles other cultures, including those originating in indebted countries.

Fourth, when they parade with leaders such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac, the Live 8 promoters eventually legitimise a thoroughly illegitimate authority. The G8 is actually no more than a gang of rich countries that take it upon themselves to police the world without deferring to anyone else. On 11 June, for instance, the G8 announced that they were cancelling the debt of 18 poor countries to the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the IMF. It is significant that this announcement, which reveals the failure of previous measures and is a limited premium for docile countries, should be decided on by the G8 leaders, thus flouting elementary democratic principles, since peoples in countries of the South had not had their say any more than the concerned multilateral institutions. The G8 is illegitimate, and no significant change can take place if we do not refuse to play along.

After this spate of historic pronouncements from the G8, after the highly mediatised statements of some vaguely messianic Western singers among whom three pop stars cum entrepreneurs who have been knighted by the Queen (Bob Geldof, Elton John, Paul McCartney), all citizens who fight for some sort of justice will carry on in their struggle for a world that is incompatible with the values that are currently highlighted and that the shows in Hyde Park or Philadelphia will only have boosted - a world in which the debt no longer burdens billions of people, and fundamental human rights are respected, a world in which the cultures and voices of involved peoples can be heard and listened to. Let us make poverty history, along with the G8.

Damien Millet, President of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (CADTM) France; Victor Nzuzi (DR Congo), farmer, coordinator of NAD in DR Congo; Aminata Touré Barry (Mali), President of CAD Mali; Eric Toussaint, President of CADTM Belgium; Ibrahim Yacouba (Niger), trade-unionist, in charge of RNDD-Niger.
All are members of the international CADTM network.

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle.