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Want to share optimism about future: Bill Gates

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-09-2017 Seema Chowdhry

A new annual report tracking the state of global health and development is set to be launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday.

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data shows progress in areas of poverty and on different diseases.

“This report on the state of global health and development tries to document the incredible progress in different areas,” said Bill Gates in a teleconference from the US. The report talks about poverty, child and maternal mortality, family planning, financial inclusion for the poor, HIV, stunting, etc.

The release of the report will be followed by an awards dinner co-hosted by Melinda Gates with the UN deputy secretary-general, General Amina J. Mohammed, on 19 September in New York, followed by another event the next day.

The report which will now be an annual feature until 2030 has come at a time when the world’s commitment to development is in the red with proposed cuts to foreign aid in the US budget and a similar sentiment across other nations too. 

“A part of this Goalkeepers goal is to have a yearly check point where we will say OK, this did not do as well this year as we expected. Here’s what those setbacks were. But also have a chance to say, look, here’s what the report card looks like, and in fact there was continued progress in these different areas. My optimism about the future is because I get to live with this data, and go out and see these examples. I think it would be valuable if we could share that outlook,” said Bill Gates. 

Also read: If world has to accomplish sustainable development goals, India must succeed: Sue Desmond-Hellmann

Tracking 18 data points based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report aims to monitor progress—examine possibilities “if the rights things happen” and alternatives if they do not. 

Another aim of the report, according to Bill Gates, is to make people aware of progress in these selected areas—part of the UN’s 17 goals—because of the help that was forthcoming. “It’s to help them understand, what are the elements that go into whether we’ll make faster progress or not.” 

Among the things needed for any development related project to be successful, Gates said, is having several levels of leadership. “One of the themes that we believe in is that we’ve got to measure where we are. And be very open about that.” Alongside, he said that if progress has to be made, then people must be able to see the overall picture, as well as “the important role that government generosity and innovation and the positive exemplars have played in that”. 

Speaking about cuts in development aid by developed countries, Bill Gates said, “Getting the discussion about the progress is never an easy thing. I wish a lot more voters could go and see what’s gone on with malaria or reproductive health, and then I think we’d get enthusiastic backing.” The executive proposal to the US Congress had fairly substantial cuts, including for polio, HIV and malaria. “That’s being debated in the Congress, which has the final word. Right now, it looks like they won’t take most of those cuts. It looks like they’ll maintain pretty close to the same level in most areas. But...that still hangs in the balance, because the proposal would have pushed us in the negative direction in areas like HIV funding. Unless we maintain funding, we’re not going to be able to continue the reduction which we’ve been able to achieve over the last 15 years.”

Speaking about grassroots start-ups, especially when it comes to delivery of health services in India, he said that the foundation always looks for innovations; however, this is not a huge area of funding for it.

“I spent a whole day when I was there (India) last year, having entrepreneurs who are going into health space talk about the work they’re doing. And it is very exciting. We’re talking with the government about how you create a framework that those people can come in.”

Shuchi Kothari, who represents Epic Foundation, a US-based social organization supporting children and youth, in India, said the ‘Goalkeepers’ report will enable a positive reinforcement of the good that comes from aid and help in fund-raising activities. “It is a great networking and learning opportunity for everyone present at these events. We will get to hear and see how leaders from other countries have worked out solutions. I strongly believe that positive stories have the ability to inspire positive outcomes. And we desperately need this reminder in the current political climate,” she added.

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