Paul Vallely is a writer and activist on Africa and development issues. He is an associate editor of the UK newspaper The Independent where he writes about ethical, cultural and political issues. He is also a columnist for the Church Times and Third Way magazine.
It was Paul Vallely who first coined, in his seminal 1990 book Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt,, the expression that campaigners needed to move “from charity to justice” – a slogan that was taken up by Jubilee 2000 and Live 8.
He was the The Times correspondent in Ethiopia during the great famine of 1984/5. He was commended as International Reporter of the Year for his reports which Bob Geldof described as “vivid, intelligent, moving and brave”. Vallely was the only British correspondent to leave the easy air routes to the feeding camps and strike off across country to find out what was really going on. He uncovered a number of scandals the Marxist government were trying to keep hidden, was pronounced “an enemy of the revolution”, arrested by the secret police and was expelled from the country. He subsequently reported from across Africa, and elsewhere, covering wars and events in 30 different countries across the globe.
Vallely ghost-wrote Bob Geldof’s autobiography, Is That It? in 1985 and travelled with Geldof across Africa to decide how to spend the £100m raised by Live Aid. He was later involved in the organisation of Live 8.
Bob Geldof paid tribute to his influence in a lecture to the Bar Human Rights Committee Lecture, St. Paul’s Cathedral in which he said: “In his book Bad Samaritans of 1990 Paul Vallely wrote correctly: ‘For all his skill as a populist Bob Geldof could not shift the agenda from one of charity to one of justice.” Well maybe after 20 years we’ve finally got there.” The founders of Jubilee 2000, Martin Dent and Bill Peters, have also acknowledged being inspired by Vallely’s book.
In 2004/5 he was seconded to the Commission for Africa set up by the British prime minister, Tony Blair. He worked with the head of research for the Commission, Lord Stern, and the head of its secretariat, Myles Wickstead, on the Commission’s 460-page report, Our Common Interest. Vallely wrote the Penguin edition of the document Our Common Interest: An Argument which was widely praised for its readability and its accessibility to a general audience. He later helped Geldof and Bono lobby the G8 at Gleneagles, whichb agreed a package of aid and debt relief for which the Commission for Africa report was the blueprint.
Paul Vallely has been active in a number of aid agencies. he has been chair of Traidcraft and the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR, now Progressio). He has worked for Christian Aid and been a media adviser to CAFOD. He is the editor of The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st century, 1999. He has advised the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales and was the author of their report A Place of Redemption: A Christian approach to Punishment and Prison(Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England & Wales, 2004). He is a director of The Tablet.
Vallely was created a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) “for services to journalism and to the developing world” in the Birthday Honours list in 2006. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of Manchester.