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
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1608 GMT (0008 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 13, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT