by Mark Curtis
Every January, Bill Gates sets out his vision for a better world and the role the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can play in achieving this in an annual letter to us all. With assets of $43.5 billion, the foundation is the largest charitable foundation in the world. It is arguably the most influential actor on issues of global health and agriculture, and distributes more aid for global health than any government.
Gated Development demonstrates that the trend to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality is central to the priorities and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We argue that this is far from a neutral charitable strategy but instead an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation. Big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities, despite evidence to show that business solutions are not the most effective.
Perhaps what is most striking about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is that despite its aggressive corporate strategy and extraordinary influence across governments, academics and the media, there is an absence of critical voices. Global Justice Now is concerned that the foundation’s influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.