Ten years ago, on April 5th 2005, at a launch featuring Brad Pitt, Bono, Djimon Hounsou and the late great Jack Valenti, we launched this iconic ONE ad. In stark black and white featuring many of the most famous stars of that time (and today) from Ellen DeGeneres and Viola Davis to Clooney, Pitt, Pacino, Hanks, and Hounsou, it called on people to join ONE and help make poverty history, especially across Africa. It went viral on something that was big at the time, MySpace, and featured on this other recently launched thing called YouTube.
Millions joined ONE through this campaign. Many people who joined then still campaign with ONE regularly, taking our actions online and in person, whether pushing governments to keep their promises to fund the fight against Aids or to fight corruption in the oil and gas sector in Africa. It’s been a terrific journey for us and our members, who back then may have only joined because they were interested in some celebrity – but today are more passionate about the fight against injustice and inequality, and doing something truly meaningful about it. Here’s some progress we’ve helped achieve together with all our partners, and two huge challenges we face ahead of us we need to focus on together now.
AIDS: Deaths from Aids are down by nearly one million a year, 3,000 fewer people die of HIV/AIDS than a decade ago, because twelve million more people have access to the life saving antiretrovirals we’ve campaigned for together.
MALARIA: Deaths from malaria are down by 250,000 a year – around 1,000 fewer people dying from malaria every day, because hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated bed nets and therapies have been distributed with funds we’ve campaigned for.
CHILD MORTALITY: The number of children dying from all preventable treatable diseases is down by two million a year, an amazing 5,000 fewer kids dying every day.
EXTREME POVERTY: Extreme poverty, defined as living on a daily sum of less than $1.25, has been reduced by a quarter globally, from 21% of the worlds population to 14.5% today.
AID TO AFRICA: It has increased by $14 billion a year, much of this increase going into healthcare and antipoverty programs helping local efforts to fight against poverty, hunger and disease.
NOW AN OPPORTUNITY – AND JEOPARDY
All these improvements mean we can virtually make extreme poverty history. We can also virtually end preventable treatable deaths from disease except in the most remote of conflict-hit regions, and help share a new era of dignity and opportunity for all. We can do this by or before 2030, the duration of the soon-to-be-agreed Global Sustainable Development Goals which the UN is right now working on finalising. But we will not succeed, unless we recognise and tackle two standout challenges – the Trillion Dollar Scandal; and the fact that Poverty Is Sexist.
THE TRILLION DOLLAR SCANDAL
Around a trillion a dollars is siphoned out of developing countries every year because of opaque government budgets, corrupt contracts in government procurement and in oil, gas, mining and natural resources, and other forms of corruption. If just a fraction of these funds were saved and reinvested in health and basic needs, it would boost the fight against extreme poverty and avoid the perversion of politics by the corrupt. That is why ONE is increasingly campaigning against corruption and in favour of open data, budgets and contracts, and overall the disinfectant of sunlight. As Bono puts it: we have a vaccine against corruption – it’s called transparency.
POVERTY IS SEXIST
Extreme poverty is most entrenched amongst the most marginalised and disenfranchised, and the data suggests that far too often these are women and girls. The irony here is that women and girls are so often the best local agents of change. Invest in a girl’s health and education, and help a women get access to finance and secure property rights, the simple right to own her land, and this delivers rapid benefits for her family and community’s fight against poverty. Read here to find out more and take action.
If the world doesn’t put the push against corruption and gender inequality at the heart of our Global Goals, then our progress against extreme poverty will be dramatically hindered.
By 2040 Africa will be home to 2 billion people and 25% of the world’s youth. I’m optimistic that if we work together we can help ensure they grow up in a world of decent opportunity. But what if we fail to take action and they grow up in a world where their environment has been devastated, education and employment opportunities are scare, inequality has worsened and our world leaders’ promises to help them fight poverty have been broken? Their energy canfuel for global dynamism – or it can produce a combustible situation where global instability spreads. Which world do you want your children to grow up in? Which world it will be depends on the actions we take now.