By GLENN GAMBOA, AP Business Writer
Bill Gates, worried about “significant suffering” caused by global setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Wednesday that he will donate $20 billion to his foundation so it can increase its annual spending.
The gift, combined with longtime Berkshire Hathaway board member Warren Buffett’s $3.1 billion gift last month, brings the endowment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to approximately $70 billion, making it one of the largest, if not the largest in the world, depending on daily stock valuations. In an essay on the foundation’s website, Bill Gates said he hopes “others in positions of great wealth and privilege will also step forward at this time.”
The Gates Foundation plans to increase its annual budget by 50% over pre-pandemic levels to around $9 billion by 2026. The foundation hopes the increased spending will improve education, reduce poverty and restore global progress to end preventable diseases and achieve gender equality that has stalled in recent years.
According to the United Nations Development Program, 71 million people have been pushed into poverty since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, mainly due to rising food and energy prices. Households in the Balkans, the Caspian Sea region and sub-Saharan Africa have been particularly hard hit. The UN World Food Program reports that the number of acutely hungry people is now 345 million, up 25% since the start of the war in Ukraine.
“Despite the great global setbacks of recent years, I see incredible heroism and sacrifice around the world and believe that progress is possible,” Bill Gates, co-chairman of the foundation, said in a statement. “But the great crises of our time require us all to do more… I hope that by giving more, we can mitigate some of the suffering people are facing right now and help fulfill the foundation’s vision of giving every person the opportunity of living a healthy life. and productive life.”
Co-Chair Melinda French Gates said the additional spending will help provide a “fairer and more inclusive recovery.”
“Philanthropy has a unique role to play in helping people around the world recover from the pandemic and rebuild the underlying systems that left so many so vulnerable in the first place,” French Gates said in a statement.
Speaking at the “Hunger Pains: The Growing Global Food Crisis” webinar on Monday, Gates Foundation Executive Director Mark Suzman said two decades of progress have been interrupted by the current global crises spawned by the Russian invasion. However, growth in agricultural productivity around the world is largely unchanged.
“We have the tools. We have the science. We have the knowledge,” Suzman said. “What we need is the political will and the resources.”
Those resources include donations from philanthropic organizations. The Gates Foundation invests heavily in connecting agricultural breakthroughs to the right countries, offering drought-resistant corn seeds or flood-resistant rice to areas that can use them the most, Suzman said.
However, philanthropy has its limitations, he added. Suzman said the response from the world’s richest countries has not only been less than what is currently needed, but even less than what the world provided a decade ago during a similar crisis. “This is our most critical area of opportunity for human solidarity,” she said. “That actually has knock-on effects to provide better political stability and broader economic growth, which is what I think everyone wants to see.”
In his essay, Bill Gates wrote that polarization in the United States makes fighting global crises more difficult. “Political division limits our political capacity for dialogue, compromise, and cooperation and frustrates the bold leadership that is required both domestically and internationally to confront these threats,” he wrote. “Polarization is forcing us to look back and fight again for basic human rights, social justice and democratic norms.”
While achieving gender equality has long been one of the foundation’s main areas of investment, in his essay, Bill Gates highlighted overturning Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court as “a major setback for gender equality, for women’s health, and for human progress in general.” .”
“The potential for an even bigger regression is terrifying,” he added. “It will put the lives of women, people of color and anyone living on the margins at risk.”
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