The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), a merging of the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation, is an American private foundation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates. It was launched in 2000 and is reported to be the largest private foundation in the world, holding $46.8 billion in assets.
The primary goals of the foundation are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty across the globe, and to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in the U.S. The foundation is controlled by its three trustees: Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett. Other principal officers include Chief Executive Officer Mark Suzman.
The BMGF had an endowment of $46.8 billion as of December 31, 2018. The scale of the foundation and the way it seeks to apply business techniques to giving makes it one of the leaders in venture philanthropy, though the foundation itself notes that the philanthropic role has limitations. In 2007, its founders were ranked as the second most generous philanthropists in the U.S., behind Warren Buffett.
As of 2018, Bill and Melinda Gates had donated around $36 billion to the foundation. Since its founding, the foundation has endowed and supported
a broad range of social, health, and education developments, including the establishment of the Gates Cambridge Scholarships at Cambridge University.
Some critics fear that the foundation directs the conversation on education or pushing its point of view through news coverage. The foundation has said it lists all its grants publicly and does not enforce any rules for content among its grantees, who have editorial independence.
The K-12 and higher education reform programs of the Gates Foundation have been criticized by some education professionals, parents, and researchers because they have driven the conversation on education reform to such an extent that they may marginalize researchers who do not support Gates’ predetermined policy preferences. Several Gates-backed policies such as small schools, charter schools, and increasing class sizes have been expensive and disruptive, but some studies indicate they have not improved educational outcomes and may have caused harm. Examples of some of the K-12 reforms advocated by the foundation include closing ineffective neighbourhood schools in favour of privately run charter schools; extensively using standardized test scores to evaluate the progress of students, teachers, and schools; and merit pay for teachers based on student test scores. Critics also believe that the Gates Foundation exerts too much influence over
public education policy without being accountable to voters or taxpayers.
Global health division A 2007 investigation by The Los Angeles Times claimed there are three major unintended consequences with the foundation’s allocation of
aid towards the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
1.Gates grantees have increased the demand for specially trained, higher- paid clinicians, diverting staff from basic care in sub-Saharan Africa. This adds to the existing doctor shortage and pulls away additional trained staff from children and those suffering from other common killers.
2.The focus on a few diseases has short-changed basic needs such as nutrition and transportation.
3.Gates-funded vaccination programs have instructed caregivers to discourage patients from discussing ailments that the vaccinations cannot prevent.
Both insiders and external critics have suggested that there is too much deference to Bill Gates’ personal views within the Gates Foundation, insufficient internal debate, and pervasive “group think.”
Critics also complain that Gates Foundation grants are often awarded based on social connections and
ideological allegiances rather than based on formal external review processes or technical competence.
Critics have suggested that Gates’ approach to Global Health and Agriculture favours the interests of large pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies (in which Gates invests) over the interests of the people of developing countries.
After the Gates foundation urged the University of Oxford to find a large company partner to get its COVID-19 vaccine to market, the university backed off from its earlier pledge to donate the rights to any drug maker.
AGRA and Monsanto
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a development aid organization founded in 2006 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Rockefeller Foundation with a focus on Africa.
Criticism is expressed of the personnel links between the BMGF’s Executive Board and Monsanto.
AGRA’s economic connection to groups such as Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, Dow Chemical, BASF and Bayer together with the fact that the BMGF holds a significant proportion of the company’s shares lead to criticism.
In particular the promotion of the use of chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds leading to the destruction of grown smallholder structures and an increase in Africa’s dependence on large corporations is being criticized.
Modi Goalkeepers Award
On September 24, 2019, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave its Goalkeepers Global Goals award to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The decision to award Modi was widely criticized by academics, Nobel Prize laureates, and human rights activists from all over the world.
A petition signed by over 100,000 people also demanded that the Gates Foundation rescind the award.
Critics insisted that Modi, a Hindu nationalist prime minister with an alleged long record of human rights abuse, should not be celebrated by an organization whose mission states that ‘every life has equal value and all people deserve healthy lives.’
By giving Modi this prestigious award, they noted, the Gates Foundation contributes in legitimizing the rule of Modi.
Poverty and education policy
Critics say the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has overlooked the links between poverty and poor academic achievement and has unfairly demonized teachers for poor achievement by underprivileged students.
They contend that the Gates Foundation should be embracing anti- poverty and living wage policies rather than pursuing untested and empirically unsupported education reforms.
Critics say that Gates-backed reforms such as increasing the use of
technology in education may financially benefit Microsoft and the Gates family.
Calls for divestment
The foundation trust invests undistributed assets, with the exclusive goal of maximizing the return on investment. As a result, its investments include companies that have been criticized for worsening poverty in the same developing countries where the foundation is attempting to relieve poverty. These include companies that pollute heavily and pharmaceutical companies that do not sell into the developing world.
In response to press criticism, the foundation announced in 2007 a review of its investments to assess social responsibility.
It subsequently cancelled the review and stood by its policy of investing for maximum return, while using voting rights to influence company practices.
Critics have called on the Gates Foundation to divest from the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison corporation in the United States. A large part of the prison’s work involves incarcerating and detaining migrants that have been detained by the Obama administration and now the Trump administration.
In spring 2014, the Gates Foundation acknowledged its $2.2 million investment in the prison corporation.
It has more recently rebuffed critics’ request that it sever investment ties with the prison corporation. It has refused to comment on whether it is continuing its investments.