Bono: Vac­cine for cor­rup­tion is trans­parency, democ­racy

Kyiv Post - - Na­tional - BY I LYA TIMTCHENKO TIMTCHENKO@KYIV­POST.COM

Global celebrity Paul David Hew­son, bet­ter known as Bono — the front­man of rock band U2 — made a sur­prise visit to Kyiv on Sept. 15, but not to per­form any of his many hits.

Bono’s first ap­pear­ance in Ukraine came at the in­vi­ta­tion of Ukrainian bil­lion­aire oli­garch Vik­tor Pinchuk, who asked the 58-year-old Irishman to at­tend the 15th Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy, or YES con­fer­ence, as its spe­cial guest speaker.

Bono is one of the wealth­i­est mu­si­cians in the world, first gain­ing fame with his band, formed in 1976. He has since also be­come known as a phi­lan­thropist, ac­tivist, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and busi­ness­man.

“A big wel­come from a city that’s been wait­ing for you for so long,” said CNN host Fa­reed Zakaria, one of the mod­er­a­tors at the con­fer­ence. But he went on to re­mind the rock star of the fates of other well-known pub­lic fig­ures, such as ac­tor Kevin Spacey as well as then-celebrity Don­ald Trump, who have ad­dressed the con­fer­ence in pre­vi­ous years.

“So what this tells me is the omens are that you are ei­ther go­ing to be­come the most pow­er­ful man in the world, or you are go­ing to have a sex scan­dal on your hands,” Zakaria said re­fer­ring the cur­rent U.S. pres­i­dent and Spacey, who was ac­cused of mul­ti­ple sex­ual as­saults af­ter ap­pear­ing at YES.

The EU idea

Bono’s visit to Ukraine was part of a larger cam­paign that has taken the star across Europe to pro­mote the Euro­pean Union.

Many Euro­peans have taken the idea of the EU for granted, Bono said, and he sees Ukraine as a strong sup­porter of the po­lit­i­cal-eco­nomic union of 28 states.

For most Ukraini­ans, the EU rep­re­sents a bet­ter life. Back in 2014, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ukraini­ans protested against then-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, who de­cided at the last minute to back out of sign­ing a trade and eco­nomic as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the union. The de­ci­sion prompted mas­sive protests and led to the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion that drove Yanukovych from power.

“Vik­tor and Olena wanted me to come here be­cause they say that there’s real re­spect for Euro­pean val­ues here in Ukraine, and a real de­sire that those val­ues be en­cour­aged. And in Europe, we need en­cour­age­ment,” Bono said.

Threat to EU

The “EU idea” has come un­der threat, Bono said, re­fer­ring to the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment’s re­cent an­tiEU rhetoric, Swe­den’s op­po­si­tion to im­mi­gra­tion, and Brexit, or the United King­dom’s de­ci­sion at a June 23, 2016 ref­er­en­dum to leave the EU.

“You see the very real pos­si­bil­ity af­ter Brexit of the dismantling of this beau­ti­ful idea that is Europe,” Bono said. “I’m not say­ing that Brus­sels is ro­man­tic, but Europe is a very, very ro­man­tic idea. The idea that ev­ery­one can speak a dif­fer­ent lan­guage and still be un­der­stood. How won­der­ful a thought is that?”

Euro­peans should be a lit­tle “afraid” and “ner­vous” about their fu­ture, he said.

“I don’t know enough about this great coun­try but I know enough… that you don’t have to ex­plain to Ukraini­ans the mean­ing and the value of peace and free­dom,” Bono said. “And you’re still fight­ing for it on a daily ba­sis, and my prayer for you is that you wouldn’t have to ac­tu­ally fight for it in any phys­i­cal sense — just spir­i­tu­ally, would be nice,” he said, re­fer­ring to Rus­sia’s war against Ukraine and its oc­cu­pa­tion of Ukraine's Crimean penin­sula.

Crit­i­cisms

Bono re­cently came un­der crit­i­cism for his busi­ness and tax af­fairs af­ter the 2017 Par­adise Pa­pers leak, in which 13.4 mil­lion elec­tronic doc­u­ments re­lated to offshore com­pa­nies were made avail­able to the press. Oth­ers have crit­i­cized him for pos­ing in pho­tos with some of the world’s rich­est, most pow­er­ful and most cor­rupt peo­ple.

Bono’s re­sponse is that he is try­ing to unify peo­ple.

“If I can tell you about what was so ex­tra­or­di­nary in my life, if this makes any sense to you, it is what I would call un­ex­pected cou­plings, to be in a pho­to­graph with some­body when it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “This was the thing I’m most proud of is… (the abil­ity to) work with your sup­posed en­emy, and this is maybe a hard thing to say here in Ukraine. And the most im­por­tant word in the English lan­guage might turn out to be the word ‘com­pro­mise.’”

Hu­man­i­tar­ian work

This is the ap­proach that has al­lowed his hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion, the ONE Cam­paign, to unify peo­ple who would usu­ally con­sider each other en­e­mies, he said.

“Fight­ing HIV, we had peo­ple who wouldn’t want to be in the same room with each other,” he said. “So try­ing to find a con­stituency across po­lit­i­cal di­vides be­came our theme tune at the ONE Cam­paign.”

Bono then talked of Africa’s fight for free­dom and suc­cess.

“I think if you lis­ten to the Africans, they are just ex­cited about their own suc­cess sto­ries and they are try­ing to throw off a gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers that have been cor­rupt and have not shep­herded and stew­arded their re­sources,” he said. “I mean Africa is so rich, it is this re­ally rich, ex­tra­or­di­nary, mag­nif­i­cent place, and I think that this new gen­er­a­tion is go­ing to get through.”

“In the north (of Europe) we have Brexit, to the west we have the name that shall not be men­tioned (a ref­er­ence to U. S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump), and then to the east we have your prob­lem, an­other name that shall not be men­tioned (a ref­er­ence to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin), and then to the south we have the Mediter­ranean, eight miles away from Africa,” Bono said. “We have to think dif­fer­ently.”

Hier­ar­chies doomed

“I think hi­er­ar­chi­cal so­ci­eties are not made for the 21st cen­tury,” Bono said. “I like to think Ir­ish peo­ple are en­tre­pre­neur­ial an­ar­chic thinkers… And I’d like to think that Ukrainian peo­ple are in­no­va­tive by na­ture. That’s what I hear.. But if you are hi­er­ar­chi­cal, you are f*cked,” Bono said, look­ing straight at the crowd.

Pinchuk, sit­ting in the first row, is one of Ukraine’s rich­est men, with a for­tune cur­rently es­ti­mated at $1.4 bil­lion by Forbes mag­a­zine. He made his for­tune mainly from the Ukrainian steel in­dus­try in the 1990s, when large state as­sets were taken over by a few busi­ness­men who be­came oli­garchs. He later cre­ated a more Western-style London-based in­vest­ment firm, EastOne Group.

Pinchuk’s busi­ness em­pire In­ter­pipe Group was built mostly dur­ing the pres­i­dency of his fa­therin-law, for­mer Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma, through non-trans­par­ent ten­ders.

On the other hand, Pinchuk has since won praise for do­nat­ing at least $125 mil­lion to char­i­ta­ble causes through his foun­da­tion.

False ha­los

“It used to be that you could make money any way you wanted, be a bru­tal cap­i­tal­ist, and then you get your halo in the way that you give your money away, you be­come the phi­lan­thropist for your sins,” Bono said dur­ing the fol­low­ing panel.

“And I think this next gen­er­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly the mil­len­ni­als, are much more de­mand­ing of that. For them, it’s not the way you give away your money that de­fines your cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, it’s the way you make it. And that’s a key change.”

Bono has been strongly in­volved in phil­an­thropic work him­self, rais­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to fight HIV/AIDS, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and malaria.

When Zakaria asked how Ukraine should fight cor­rup­tion, Bono gave a vague re­sponse — through in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy that cre­ates more trans­parency, he said.

“Cor­rup­tion is killing more chil­dren than HIV/AIDS or malaria,” Bono said. “But there is a vac­cine for cor­rup­tion. It’s called trans­parency, it’s called open gov­ern­ment.”

“Don’t ag­o­nize, in­stead — or­ga­nize,” he said.

Global celebrity Paul David Hew­son, bet­ter known as Bono — the front­man of rock band U2 — made his first visit to Kyiv on Sept. 15 as he was the spe­cial guest speaker at the 15th Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy con­fer­ence. (Sergei Illin/YES)

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