April 30, 2001 -- U2 singer Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, founder of Live Aid, have ramped up their efforts in a campaign to encourage creditors of poor nations to cancel those countries' debts.
The two musicians are acting on behalf of Drop the Debt, a London-based organization formerly known as Jubilee 2000, which has spearheaded the campaign for debt forgiveness.
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Last year, President Clinton canceled all of the debts owed the United States by the world's poorest countries. But while this reduced the amount owed by the poor nations, they owe a much larger sum to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
"It's a scandal. The scale of the response does not match the scale of the problem," Bono said of the measures taken. "You know, we're going to try, we're going to speak to Oprah Winfrey, we're going to try and get on her program, we're going to ask [South Africa's former] President [Nelson] Mandela to join us. We're going to get to the heartland in some way on this, because if Americans hear the facts on this, they'll respond to it like they have in Europe."
Bono and Geldof held a conference call with reporters on Friday along with Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.
"There is little chance of progress within those nations if they are not allowed to invest in their own people," said Geldof, who recently returned from a meeting in South Africa with Mandela. "I've been going to Africa for many years now and have seen endless catastrophes."
The World Bank says that if it is to forgive the debt of the 41 countries designated as "heavily indebted poor countries," it would require contributions from its shareholders to finance such a move.
Drop the Debt says it has funded a study by an independent accountant, which concluded that the lending organizations could fund the debt cancellation.
The Web site for Drop the Debt, www.dropthedebt.org, says that the $200 million that Geldof's Live Aid raised for African countries is the same amount those countries pay creditors every week.