Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa

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Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa (or DATA) was a multinational non-government organization founded in January 2002 in London by U2's Bono along with Bobby Shriver and activists from the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign.

Time magazine reported in 2005:

"Today, with U2 in town for a show at Madison Square Garden, Bono has the rare treat of staying in one of his homes, a three-story penthouse he purchased from Steve Jobs. (He also has places in Dublin and the south of France.) He lounges beneath a giant Christo drawing of The Gates (not Bill and Melinda but the Central Park installation), surrounded by art books. It's a lovely day to do nothing, but that's not really an option."I get very little time entirely alone," he says, moments before six people appear in the living room with videoconferencing equipment to discuss a soon-to-be-announced consumer campaign for African development. Tom Lantos, a Democratic Representative from California, swings by with his granddaughter. Bono and Lantos are close enough that the Congressman, a Holocaust survivor, has encouraged Bono to reference worldwide indifference to the genocide when describing governments' apathetic response to the spread of AIDS across Africa. "I am very sensitive to people abusing the analogy," says Lantos. "He's convinced me it's legitimate."...
"Twenty years ago, the notion of Bono as a political player was almost unimaginable. In 1985, U2 played Live Aid, the Bob Geldof-- organized concert for African famine relief. At the time, it was hailed as a massive success, and in the sense that it got people to briefly engage with another part of the world while watching Tina Turner dance with Mick Jagger, it was. After the concert, Bono and his wife Ali Hewson spent six weeks working at an orphanage in Wello, Ethiopia. The weight of famine, war and corruption--as well as the resentment many capable Africans feel toward uninformed foreigners with messiah complexes--overwhelmed him. As did the foolishness of thinking a day of singing was enough. But U2 was on its way to becoming the biggest band in the world, and Bono stuffed a deeper engagement with Africa into the warehouse of good intentions.
"Then in 1997 he received a brief from a development advocate, Jamie Drummond, that pointed out that although Live Aid raised $200 million, Ethiopia alone paid $500 million in annual debt service to the world's lending institutions. After contacting Drummond, Bono signed on as a spokesman for Jubilee 2000, a church-based campaign born in England that asked governments to use the millennium as an occasion to cancel Third World debt. Bono, who spends most of his nontouring time in Dublin with Hewson and their four children, started flying to Washington for weekends at the World Bank with his friend Bobby Shriver, a son of Eunice and Sargent Shriver. Eventually, Bono's education was taken over by economist Jeffrey Sachs. After Bono's understanding of the issue went from fluency to mastery, he started speaking out, lobbying Bill Clinton's Administration to make debt relief a core aim of U.S. policy toward the developing world. It worked: midway through his presidency, Clinton agreed to erase $6 billion in debt...
"Through Shriver's brother-in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bono met Ohio Republican John Kasich, a fiscal conservative known for his love of jam bands...
"At that point, Bono was relying on an improvised staff of Drummond and Lucy Matthew, another Brit from the nonprofit world, who would meet him wherever U2 was playing and open a policy desk at the local Kinko's. "He told us he was in this cause for life," says Matthew, "and it was time to become a real organization." Bob Geldof, one of Bono's closest friends, came up with the name DATA, a double acronym meant to position the group as a nexus between the nonprofit development world (debt, AIDS, trade, Africa) and the results-oriented political world (democracy, accountability, transparency in Africa.) The name was also directed inward: no wishful thinking, just facts in all their nasty complexity.
"To ensure that DATA was divorced from the stigma of vanity, Bono refused to bankroll it. After coaxing $1 million grants out of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, George Soros and software businessman Ed Scott, DATA got real office space and hired lobbyists--Tom Sheridan, a Democrat who had been a star of the domestic AIDS lobby, and Scott Hatch, a former Tom DeLay aide who ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. DATA employees churned out policy papers, while Hatch, Sheridan and Shriver organized intimate, bipartisan dinner parties (sample guest list: Senators Jesse Helms, Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch; former World Bank president Jim Wolfensohn; Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers) to cement relationships and encourage the sense that at least on one issue, everyone could break bread. Spouses were invited, and to spice things up, Bono might ask a friend from another sphere, like Jordan's Queen Noor, to drop by...
"Born to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono describes his faith as "promiscuous." He quotes Scripture and counts meetings with Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham among the most significant of his life..." [1]

In 2007, DATA and the ONE Campaign decided to join forces, and in January 2008, they formally merged under the name ONE.

Resources and articles

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  1. Josh Tyrangiel, "The Constant Charmer," Time, December 19, 2005.