Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bono: Fight poverty to reach the 'Zero Zone'

By Michael Elliott, Special to CNN
March 17, 2013 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
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
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT