I’m sitting in a lecture theatre at the London School of Economics, having just finished live-tweeting from the launch of the Global Poverty Ambassador initiative with Bill Gates and Hans Rosling.
You can check out the conversation stream from the event on our Twitter account at www.twitter.com/thegpp
Both are men I deeply respect, and they’ve just been having a fascinating discussion here with the audience about Bill’s Annual Letter – you can read the letter and see the discussion at www.globalpovertyproject.com/pages/launch
Released earlier today, the Annual Letter is an open letter that Bill Gates writes once a year about what he and his Foundation will do to fight extreme poverty in the year ahead. Focusing on innovation this year, he sets out a bold and challenging vision of how even in tough economic times, we can make huge progress in the fight against extreme poverty.
Agriculture is a central theme of the letter, and Gates urges governments to focus on agricultural innovation to ensure food security. He picks up on some of the themes we’ve been writing about in our series on the Never Again famine charter, and includes the challenging graph you see below around disparity in how much the extreme poor spend on food.
His proposed solution, and the area into which his Foundation are putting billions of dollars is scientific research to increase productivity, through things like improved seeds.
On global health, Gates focuses on vaccines and polio. He reminds us that polio eradication is the Foundation’s top priority – a commitment we’re proud to hear given our campaigning on The End of Polio. And, he congratulates donors and vaccine manufacturers for their efforts, calling the success of the GAVI pledging conference in June 2011 an “historic day for global health equity.”
On the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, Bill Gates is positive about progress that has been made.
At the same time, he expresses strong concern about donors falling short of their commitments. In his words, “Every $300 that’s not forthcoming will represent a person taken off treatment. That’s a very clear choice. I believe that if people understood the choice, they would ask their government to save more lives.” It’s a sentiment that we share at the Global Poverty Project, and is one of the reasons our UK team are working with Malaria No More to call on the government to Fund the Fund.
In closing, Gates recounts why it is that he remains so optimistic about our ability to fight extreme poverty:
“Whether it’s fighting plant disease, treating people with AIDS, or getting a measles vaccine to a child in a remote area—modest investments in the poorest make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, many people believe the opposite—that money spent on development is wasted, or that it doesn’t get lasting results. Melinda and I will spend a lot of time in the coming year explaining why they’re mistaken. The relatively small amount of money invested in development has changed the future prospects of billions of people—and it can do the same for billions more—if we make the choice to continue investing in innovation.“
Tell us what you think about Bill Gates’ Annual Letter by joining the conversation on Twitter with the #billsletter hashtag.