Bono at the Munich Security Conference: Security without development is unsustainable

This is a full video and transcript of Bono’s remarks on Global Security and Development at the Munich Security Conference, 17th February, 2017.



Ambassador Ischinger told me this was the, the Berlin Beer Festival. And, uh, which is a subject I actually really know, from years of research.

But actually the reason I’m here is in study of a subject I thought I knew…. but didn’t. I should admit that for most of my life I believed that freedom and equality, justice for all, were ideas that had their own momentum. It was like they were kind of unstoppable.

It felt like even when we did nothing, that momentum ensured that tomorrow would be better than today, and when we DID manage to do something—to get ourselves organized—then we really did incredible things. Things like bringing peace—if sometimes a brutal one—to intractable conflicts like Bosnia or Northern Ireland. We saw the end of apartheid in South Africa, the wall come down in Berlin, the Iron Curtain pulled aside. I said WE did incredible things, but of course I really meant you…

You see, as an apprentice rock star on the north side of Dublin I watched the march of freedom, but I was oblivious to the work of freedom.

I was standing without knowing it on a foundation laid by people like you… by your predecessors, by soldiers and diplomats, who, having survived the greatest trauma in the history of the world, the Second World War, preferred to stay living and stop dying…smart, especially after the splitting of the atom.

Because for the first time in history, it was clear: you can win the war and lose EVERYTHINGEVERYTHING.

It turns out, ‘peace’ is a most meaningless word without the institutions to make it real. The radical practicality of inter-dependence.

So agreements were reached… institutions were built… institutions like NATO, the United Nations, the European Union, Bretton Woods… and, of course, conferences like this one, now in its 54th year.

All guarantors of freedom and a global cooperation, that I guess I just took for granted.

Well, I don’t anymore.

Maybe because right now, it feels like interdependence is under siege, beset by challenges most everyone can see, but no one can avoid. Outsized countries behaving like tiny islands when our common security is threatened by the maelstrom of an unholy trinity – oh yes, the three extremes: extreme ideology, extreme poverty, and extreme climate.

An unholy trinity.

Think the Sahel. Think Afghanistan. Think of the geology along North Africa.

So the rise of ISIL and the civil war in Syria makes this clear. It brought an upheaval not only to human lives but to our institutions, our shared understandings. It has, as everyone in Germany knows, upended the very idea of Europe.

And Syria, we know, is not the only country on the fault lines of chaos.

Last year, I traveled to some of those fault lines. I visited Nigeria, Kenya, Turkey, Egypt. I learnt a lot on these trips. I learned what two and a quarter million internally displaced people looks like – chaos. I learned the term “permanent temporary solutions,” that’s right: refugees camps referred to as “permanent, temporary solutions.”

Now, I did not make my name in mathematics, but I can do a few songs. I can do a few calculations:

Syria is—was—a country of roughly 20 million people.

Egypt has a population of 93 million people.

Nigeria, 186 million.

What would we do—more to the point, what would YOU do—if a country ten times the size of Syria were to combust? Now, I don’t think Nigeria is going to burst into flames, any minute, but as you know, that is the stated objective of Boko Haram.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a body of water wide enough… or a wall high enough… to keep those problems from our doors. Because from where I stand, if Nigeria fails, Africa fails. If Africa fails, Europe fails. And if Europe fails, well the world has a very, very big problem. That is why, I think that’s why, I’m hearing—from military and civilian leaders alike—that security and development agendas require a better understanding of each other. In short, catalyzing successful states might be a lot cheaper than dealing with failed ones. Prevention is a lot cheaper than intervention.

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard it from Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense; General Jim Jones, former head of NATO; I’ve heard it from General David Petraeus whose quote was “our security will be improved by sustaining foreign aid in the years ahead rather than making cuts.”

I think what these Generals are saying, is though development without security is clearly impossible, security without development is unsustainable.

For us Europeans, this might be a moment to stand by our neighbours in Africa. The good neighbours, the ones who are fighting corruption, putting their people first, the ones who are standing by us. You see, for those of you with hands on the lever of power, in this room, there’s a deal to be done here. A new deal that ties your security strategy with a development strategy, where increased investments are conditional on fighting corruption, fighting poverty, and the root causes of extremism.

That’s the kind of vision we’re beginning to see from the likes of Minister Schauble here in Germany, Senator Lindsey Graham in the US, and yes, the military… the military who understand ungoverned space better than anyone else in the world because they know there is no such thing as ‘ungoverned space’. Because in chaos, radicalism rules.

They know this. The military know that if we get this wrong, even fragile states become failed states. And their problems become our problems.

The military also know that if we get this right, their success will be our success. Their stability will aid in our own.

I would ask you this afternoon to imagine the German economy without the rise of China over the last 20 years. All those drivers of Mercedes-Benz, all those feet for Pumas and Adidas, all those children and occasionally, yours truly, on late night binges for the Kinder Chocolate Eggs…..ahhh the Mittelstand. The rise of Africa will be very, very good for the Mittelstand.

The military people tell us also about the primacy of good data, that facts are friendly. Here’s one that seems to be terrifying for some but I find really inspiring.

In 2050, Africa will be home to nearly two out of five of the world’s youth. Think what all that energy can do for Africa and the world IF — IF — there are good directions for that energy to go. You see, I’d like to think of this so called ‘youth bulge’ as a great gift, a “demographic dividend” if you like.

I have seen, in the past decade especially, what people in African countries can do when we work as partners… I have seen what African businesses and civil society can do… what smart aid can do….If you need proof, check Bill Gates’s annual letter, it’s very, very, very impressive.

So how can we, in the G20, become part of their success?

Well, at the ONE Campaign, we hear three things from our nearly three million African members: we hear education, employment and empowerment. Bildung, Beschäftigung, Beteiligung

How about that? [applause]

No 1, Education. We need a plan to make sure all girls can go to school. 130 million girls around the world don’t. For every extra year a girl goes to school, her income goes up 12 percent… some studies even suggest that more education can reduce a country’s risk of conflict by 20 percent.

No 2, Employment. We need to help African leaders make sure that their young people find work… or they’ll find trouble. The G20 can help by making increased investment in jobs, in infrastructure. But these investments must be conditional on…

No 3, Empowerment, all such investments we’re talking about must be tied to reform. The G20 must clamp down on capital flight while helping citizens in Africa fight corruption. It’s an amazing sight: the amount of young people out there who are involved in this fight against corruption. Platoons of young people using their mobile devices as tracking devices, using their mobile phones as tracking devices following the money, cause a lot of money goes missing, we know this.

This generation knows that corruption is the killer disease but they also know there’s a vaccine. The vaccine is transparency, open government, boring old good governance. But it’s the way to go.

Actually, it’s not boring at all. I couldn’t be more excited to talk about ideas like these in Germany this week, because Germany gets it. No country understands the connection between development and security better than Germany does. That was the whole idea, wasn’t it, of the Marshall Plan, which helped lift Western Europe out of despair, and put it on a stable footing? Wasn’t it a military man, General George C. Marshall, who had that vision? So, I guess that means the Americans get it too…

Certainly Americans like Madeline Albright, who’s out there, who came to America as a refugee, I’d like to point out.

It’s not surprising that we hear Germans echoing African leaders like President Paul Kagame, who rebuilt his country from the rubble of civil war to a technological hub, or business leaders like Aliko Dangote; they are calling for a new relationship, something along the lines of a modern Marshall Plan.

The shape, the scale, would be different. But the idea is the same: in an uncertain world, a strong military is essential; but the best bulwark against violent extremism is, of course, hope and opportunity.

So — [applause] thank you.

One last thing.

Let’s at least be honest behind closed doors. The frontier of national interest is no longer the national border. You may not be interested in the trouble on a far off street, or across the Mediterranean, on the other side of the globe, but let me assure you, that trouble is interested in you.

Our fate is a shared fate, but which fate will it be? I’ll let you answer that. You’ve done it before, I pray and believe you can do it again.

Thank you.


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