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
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT