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U.K. Showing ‘Moral Leadership’ Through Development Aid

“I have been following the debate over the [British] government’s decision to protect foreign aid from budget cuts,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in a Daily Mail opinion piece, adding, “To me, your country’s steadfast decision to stick with an investment that saves more children’s lives than any other possibly could is the very definition of morality.” He provides the example of the GAVI Alliance, which “has protected more than 370 million children from life-threatening diseases” since its creation in 2000 by bulk-purchasing vaccines and distributing them to qualified countries. “Over the same period, the number of children dying every year has gone down by one quarter,” Gates notes. “Preventive health is mundane when it works. Stories of nations full of children who never get sick are mercifully boring,” he continues.

However, “[t]here is one important element of truth in the opponents’ critique of aid,” Gates says, adding, “In development, as in all enterprises, a small percentage of money is wasted, and a percentage of that percentage is lost to corruption. Taxpayers have every right to be angry — I am furious — because when the goal is saving lives, any misspent money costs lives.” He says that “with leadership from the U.K., donors are focusing more on accountability and effectiveness” and “[o]ur ability to measure the results of our work is improving.” “As the U.K. reaches the internationally recognized target of spending 0.7 percent of national income on foreign assistance, it is worth noting the special place you have earned in world affairs as a result of your approach to helping the poorest,” Gates writes, concluding, “By taking a methodical approach to saving lives, you’re displaying moral leadership in front of the world. This will be a source of British influence around the globe for years to come” (3/16).