Jubilee 2000 wins over Congress leaders

WASHINGTON: An unusual combination of grass-roots persistence and celebrity star power paid off last week when congressional leaders threw their support behind an initiative providing dollars 435 million in debt relief.

WASHINGTON: An unusual combination of grass-roots persistence and celebrity star power paid off last week when congressional leaders threw their support behind an initiative providing dollars 435 million in debt relief.

WASHINGTON: An unusual combination of grass-roots persistence and celebrity star power paid off last week when congressional leaders threw their support behind an initiative providing dollars 435 million in debt relief.

Bono, lead singer of pop group U2, as well as the Pope, Pat Robertson and George W Bush, had all publicly lobbied for the issue in past months.

But behind the glamor and the photo ops was a hard-fought campaign which began in earnest more than three years ago.

'This was an issue that was nowhere on the congressional radar screen and barely on the administration's radar screen in early 1999,' explained Gerry Flood, policy advisor to the US Catholic Conference.

The issue initially drew expressions of disbelief, said Dan Driscoll-Shaw, national coordinator for debt-relief alliance Jubilee 2000, which is credited with bringing Bono into the fold. But by 1999, support had been enlisted from prominent legislators.

The Jubilee 2000 coalition includes NGOs and Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations, which mobilized their grass-roots through e-mails and talks.

Then, during key budget negotiations in 1999 and 2000, Bono made crucial appearances on the Hill. Over time, his repeated outing and breadth of knowledge lent him an air of expertise.

Last month, the pop star met with conservative diehard Sen Jesse Helms (R-NC) who was impressed with his concern and knowledge, even shedding uncharacteristic tears during the meeting.

Driscoll-Shaw noted debt relief generated 'good questions' from skeptical individuals but there was no organized opposition to the campaign.



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