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Bono's advocacy organisation sends expensive gifts to journalists

ONE Action sent expensive gifts to reporters to highlight… eh, global poverty.

THIS WEEK WORLD leaders have assembled in New York for a UN summit to discuss how to move forward on Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which were agreed upon over a decade ago.

Progress on the humanitarian goals, which have a 2015 deadline, is behind schedule. Governments have pledged to facilitate development in the following areas such as poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality and maternal health.

Plush gifts

So when some journalists in New York arrived in work on Monday – the day the summit began – they were a little surprised to find plush gifts sent to them from an international advocacy group.

The New York Post reports that the ONE Campaign, which was co-founded by U2 singer Bono, sent boxes full of gifts in a bid to encourage the press to put pressure onto the US government to pledge billions of dollars to meet the MDGs.

The boxes reportedly contained items such as $15 bags of Starbucks coffee, a $15 Moleskine leather notebooks, a $20 water bottles, plastic rulers, small tins of plasters, oversized cookies, and syringe-style pens.

Response

When asked by the paper how much had been spent on gifts for journalists, spokeswoman for DC-based ONE Kimberly Hunter declined to say, however she reportedly stated:

Sometimes it’s pretty hard to get through to reporters with the information about the lives of the world’s poorest people. We think it’s important enough to try and break through the clutter… That’s why we sent the boxes.

Each of the gifts came with a message attached. For example, the Starbucks coffee was accompanied by a note that encouraged reporters to use their influence to drum up support for investing in African agriculture.

Pairs of syringe-style pens were accompanied with a note that asked  President Obama to give $6 billion to the UN’s Swiss-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. (Questionable taste?)

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The New York Post goes on to allege that, of the almost $15 million taken in by ONE in public donations in 2008, only a small proportion – it claims a figure of just over $180,000 – was given directly to three charities.

ONE – which was not available for comment on Tuesday – would probably point out that it is an advocacy group, rather than a charity which specialises in direct provision.

So is this an appropriate way to spend donor funds? Let us know what you think.

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