A few weeks ago, I attended the Millennium Campus Conference in NYC and was fortunate enough to hear from Jeff Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. As the Special Advisor to the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals, his impatience with international development is motivational. He is internationally renowned for his work as economic advisor to governments around the world and I was lucky to hear his insights on the current page in history. Needless to say, I ran out right away and bought the bible in this sector, his book published in 2005 called The End of Poverty.
Bono, ironically, wrote the foreward. It’s just funny to picture these two as friends, one rock star and one suit, but that’s the essense of the forward. We all need to “converge from different starting points” to wage war, together, on poverty. Since we never read forwords of books we don’t read, and on the off chance that you don’t read this book, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Bono’s passage that moved me.
“The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty.” Who said that? Not me. Not some beatnik peace group. Secretary of State Colin Powell. And when a military man starts talking like that perhaps we should listen. In tense, nervous times isn’t it cheaper – and smarter – to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them?
We wish things were different. But wishful thinking is not just unhelpful here; it’s dangerous. The plan Jeff lays out is not only his idea of a critical path to establish the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of cutting poverty in half – a goal signed up to by all the world’s governments. It’s a handbook on how we could finish out the job. On how we could be the first generation to outlaw the kind of extreme, stupid poverty that sees a child die of hunger in a world of plenty, or of a disease preventable by a twenty-cent inoculation. We are the first generation that can afford it. The first generation that can unknot the whole tangle of bad trade, bad debt, and bad luck. The first generation that can end a corrupt relationship between the powerful and the weaker parts of the world which has been wrong for so long.
We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies – but will we be that generation? Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring softly in our ears? Fifteen thousand people dying needlessly every day from AIDS, TB, and malaria. Mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, mechanics, children. This is Africa’s crisis. That it’s not on the nightly news, that we do not treat this as an emergency – that our crisis.