There are many problems with the world at the moment and certainly with our country but one thing that we can be proud of is our record of charity and giving to countries that are poorer than our own. In fact we are the only G8 country and one of only 5 in the world to surpass the UN target of giving 0.70% of GDP in foreign aid a massive $18 billion in 2013.
It’s something I think we can be proud of that even in times of hardships at home we increase out overseas payments even more, so long as they go to the right people. As I once wrote in my post on Soft Power, we (The U.K.) are in the gradual process of moving our country from waging military wars to becoming a country that wages war on poverty, illness and disease. We were also instrumental in forging agreement for the richest nations to cancel lots of debt from impoverished nations.
It’s something that we have an incredible track record of and not just with government spending. The British public go out of their way to support charitable causes almost like no other. Thirty years ago, I along with my class-mates, were busy rehearsing the original Band Aid song for our school Christmas concert. It was a then unique musical production featuring many of the biggest musical stars producing a song to help aid in Africa and if my memory is right, the famines in Ethiopia. Do They Know It’s Christmas was the fastest selling song of all time and it stayed at number 1 in the charts for 5 weeks and can be relied on to be played each Christmas as one of the more downbeat Christmas songs and certainly the most important.
Selling 2 million copies and raising $24 million, it went on to inspire performance charity in the USA, France, Canada and Spain and even better led to the performance of two massive global Live Aid concerts in the U.K. and U.S.A that were broadcast to 165 countries and raising another $150 million.
Then there was a Band Aid 2, Band Aid 20 and a more recent concert in London all with the general aims of helping the poor overseas.
Last week it was announced that a new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas will be released for Band Aid 30 with new singers and indeed new lyrics. The original song was quite negative towards Africa, part through naivety and partly perhaps to raise more money. Though much foreign aid has been squandered in Africa through bad planning and corrupt officials, Africa cannot any longer be classed as the almost hopeless lost cause it was portrayed as in the 1980’s.
7 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the entire world are now in Africa and so it is wrong to think that things there haven’t improved. In fact it’s often forgotten that Ebola was extinguished from Nigeria in a short period of time due to their competent health care and infrastructure.
However there are still many countries that for one reason or other still need assistance as can be readily seen with the recent outbreak of Ebola. The United States, Britain and France have taken the lead in helping to beat the epidemic with Britain being tasked with Sierra Leone. Thousands of service personnel have now been posted to the country and large numbers of volunteers and NHS doctors and nurses are leading the way in the crisis.
Band Aid is led by Sir Bob Geldof who has overseen every iteration since 1984. He is a very passionate advocate of musicians and indeed everyone in the country doing whatever they can to beat poverty in the developing world and releasing a new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas is his way of lending his and our support for those of us who are not able to help against Ebola in West Africa.
I’ve seen him in a number of interviews yesterday in which he was adamant that not a single person needs to die from Ebola if only everyone was free from poverty, intact in his typical style he was cut off from at least one interview for swearing too much in an interview. I think though, the world needs more people like Sir Bob as if you can’t be passionate about saving the world or eliminating poverty, what is the point in anything? He also made a point of urging other countries to do more to combat Ebola and particular singled out Germany stating “its leaders were not “doing enough” to tackle the epidemic. The most powerful economy in Europe are laggards and they shouldn’t be, it’s as dangerous for them as it is for us.”
To reflect the changing circumstance in Africa and the fact that this song is targeting Ebola, some of the lyrics of the song have been changed. 30 years ago despite a massive row, Mrs Thatcher refused to give Band Aid tax relief. This time round tax relief was given in advance and even iTunes have said that all monies paid will go entirely to the charity.
I have to say that I’m not very familiar with the majority of the names on the list and have heard even less of them sing but it is nice to see that everyone has the opportunity to help eradicate this awful plague in their own way.
Bob Geldof – organiser
Midge Ure – organiser
Paul Epworth – producer
Instruments: Roger Taylor (from Queen) – Drums
Bastille, Bono (from U2), Clean Bandit, Disclosure, Elbow, Paloma Faith, Fuse ODG, Nick Grimshaw, Ellie Goulding, Angelique Kidjo, Chris Martin (from Coldplay), Olly Murs,
Sinead O’Connor, One Direction, Rita Ora, Emeli Sande, Seal,
Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Underworld and Jessie Ware
Remixes: Underworld and Disclosure
The song was first aired on Sunday Night during X-Factor and raised £1 million in the first 4 minutes so it looks like once again Do They Know It’s Christmas is going to be a big hit. If you want to do your bit to help then you can download Band Aid 30 from iTunes for just 99 pence or $1.29 and it will be available to buy in stores from early December. You can also view the new video here and see the original hit here.
There is a valid argument that Foreign Aid means that the poor from rich countries end up giving money to the rich in poor countries and in Britain there has been some unhappiness with giving aid money to countries with Space Programmes or unfriendly intent might seem wrong, at a certain level most people are more than happy to give money to those truly in need.
Whilst the United States gives the largest in absolute terms, add a percentage of national wealth, it isn’t doing as well compared to other much less wealthy nations. What’s more around a third of the American foreign aid goes to a country that is as wealthy as an average European nation for political purposes whilst truly impoverished countries like Ethiopia receive in comparison just a few crumbs. Think what the 200 billion dollars that Israel has received in recent decades could do for a truly impoverished nation like Ethiopia. Imagine if every nation met the target of the UN, so many lives would be saved and improved. There is no excuse for countries like Germany, Japan, the United States, most of Europe and now nations like China.
In the end Foreign Aid is one of the few things we can do to help others at the country level. At Christmas and at any other time of year we should always be grateful for living in the rich nations that most of us live in and give just a little each year to those in need. If for no other reason than until poverty is eliminated then neither will people trafficking, mass immigration and many other problems which are overtaking our societies can truly be resolved.
As Sir Bob says, download the new Band Aid track, listen to it and then delete it and buy it again!