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22nd May 2022

Bill Gates: Millennium Development goals still 10 years away

  • OECD figures on Wednesday are expected to show that the EU is still behind on its collective target (Photo: United Nations Photo)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including poverty reduction can be reached if rich countries keep their aid pledges, but the 2015 deadline will still be missed by up to six years, according to Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Gates made the remarks to members of the European Parliament's development committee in Strasbourg on Tuesday (5 April), on the eve of a keenly awaited OECD report on development aid. His European tour this week also includes Paris and Berlin.

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In May 2005, EU-15 member states reaffirmed a previous aid commitment to give 0.7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to poorer countries by 2015, also settling on an intermediary commitment of 0.51 percent by 2010.

"The increase, if we got to this 0.7 percent, would be €20 billion in addition to what is being given today. Given what we now know on how to spend that money well, it would make a huge difference," Gates told MEPs.

"That would give you the money to achieve the MDGs, not by 2015, but within ten years," added the world's second richest man, currently on a 'Living Proof' tour to promote the positive effects of development aid.

The MDGs, a set of eight global poverty initiatives ratified by UN member states in 2000, include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality and reduced child mortality, with a deadline set for 2015.

Other targets include the fight against AIDS, improvements in maternal heath and environmental sustainability.

EU members Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have already met the 0.7 percent spending commitment, as has non-EU member Norway, but others are behind target, despite constant pressure from NGOs.

On Wednesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development will release official aid donation figures for 2010 for the 24 members of its Development Assistance Committee, 23 of the world's main donor states, plus the European Commission.

NGOs expect mixed results. "It looks like the collective EU target will be missed, despite some progress by individual countries. Obviously this is disappointing," said Thomas Johnny, an African development aid expert with Action Aid.

"In particular, reports that the current holders of the G20, France, will miss their target, sets a bad example at a time when European aid is needed more than ever," he added.

Despite increases in private philanthropy, including from his own Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates said government funding would remain the primary funding source for the foreseeable future.

"If you take international aid, private philanthropy, even with our foundation and others, is less than two percent of what's given to poor countries," he said.

"I think we can grow it [philanthropy], and I think it has a special role ... but in terms of the big things, really helping poor countries with health and agriculture, it's government foreign aid. Even though we want to maximise philanthropy, it will not offset anything done by the rich governments."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was established 15 years ago and has concentrated the largest part of its €24.5 billion invested so far on health issues, especially the development of cheap vaccines.

However, the foundation has faced criticism over its rising power and ability to drive parts of the development agenda.

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