Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bono: Fight poverty to reach the 'Zero Zone'

By Michael Elliott, Special to CNN
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Sun March 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bono called for more action to end poverty at the TED2013 Conference
  • Michael Elliott: The gains the world has made in fighting poverty are in jeopardy
  • Bono advocates for a "Zero Zone" where extreme poverty is eliminated by 2028
  • Elliott: Join Bono in spreading "factivism" to make the world a more equal place

Editor's note: Michael Elliott is president and CEO of the ONE Campaign, a global advocacy organization co-founded by Bono that is dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) -- When Bono took the stage at the TED2013 Conference in Long Beach, California, the U2 front man told the audience he had embraced his "inner nerd." "Exit the rock star," Bono said, "Enter the evidence-based activist - the factivist."

The speech was a call to action. Extreme global poverty has already been cut in half over the past 20 years, from 43% in 1990 to 21% in 2010. Bono said that if the current trajectory can be continued, extreme poverty could be virtually eliminated by 2030.

TED.com: Bono: 8 talks that give me hope

There has been astonishing progress in other areas of human development. More than 8 million people are on life-saving antiretroviral drugs, compared with only 200,000 a decade ago. In eight sub-Saharan African countries, malaria deaths have been cut by 75%; the rate of child mortality for those under 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths a year since 2000.

That's all great news, but there are two things that should give us pause. First, not enough people have any idea of the successes in the fight against global diseases and poverty. "It drives me nuts," said Bono, "that most people don't seem to know this news."

TED.com: What does extreme poverty look like today?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Second, the gains the world has made are in jeopardy. They could be reversed with cuts to the budgets for vital institutions like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; they could be stopped in their tracks if the world allows corruption, inequality, apathy and inertia to dictate the pace -- or lack of it -- of progress.

TED.com: Do we need more worldwide development goals?

But if the world keeps the promises that it has made to itself to really fight extreme poverty and preventable disease, then nothing is impossible. Bono argued that if we used transparency -- which tackles corruption like nothing else -- and technology, we can get closer to the "Zero Zone," where extreme poverty is virtually eliminated by 2028. Then this generation would be what Nelson Mandela once challenged it to be: the "Great Generation" that did away with -- in Mandela's words, the "most awful offense against humanity" that extreme poverty represents.

TED.com: The quest to end poverty

Factivism, Bono said at TED2013, is a virtuous, data-based virus, and challenged his audience to "spread it, share it, pass it on ... by doing so, you will join us and countless others in what I truly believe is the greatest journey ever taken -- the ever-demanding journey of equality."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Elliott.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:12 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
updated 5:24 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
updated 7:50 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
updated 4:31 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT