by David Connett
19 January 2016
visiting a health centre
in Awutu Senya, Ghana
Controversial new report
calls for Bill Gates'
to undergo an international
They are among the richest people on earth, have won plaudits for
their fight to eradicate some of the world's deadliest and prolific
killers, and donated billions to better educate and feed the poorest
on the planet.
Melinda Gates are
facing calls for their philanthropic Foundation, through which they
have donated billions worldwide, to be subject to an international
investigation, according to a controversial new report (Gated
Development - Is the Gates Foundation always a Force for Good?).
Far from a "neutral charitable strategy", the Gates Foundation is
about benefiting big business, especially in agriculture and health,
"ideological commitment to promote
neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalization,"
according to the report published by the campaign group
Its influence is "dangerously skewing"
aid priorities, the group says.
"The world is being sold a myth that
private philanthropy holds many of the solutions to the world's
problems, when in fact it is pushing the world in many wrong
directions," the report claims.
The Gates Foundation is,
"being allowed to speak too loudly,
and too many actors in international development are falling
into line with the foundation's misguided priorities."
The group accuse the Gates Foundation of
using its massive financial clout to silence international
development experts and groups which would criticize its practices.
Bill Gates, the report claims,
"who has regular access to world
leaders and is in effect personally bankrolling hundreds of
universities, international organizations, NGOs and media
outlets, has become the single most influential voice in
Melinda Gates' foundation
is accused of
promoting private healthcare concerns
At worst, the report's authors claims, the Gates Foundation,
"often appears to be a massive,
vertically integrated multinational corporation, controlling
every step in a supply chain that reaches from its Seattle-based
boardroom… to millions of end-users in the villages of African
and south Asia."
Lauded for their work in eradicating
polio and malaria, amongst other diseases, the report accuses the
Gates Foundation of funding privatized health and promoting an
increased role for private education providers.
The Foundation is the world's biggest funder of
GM crop research, the report
Huge corporations including,
...are major beneficiaries
of its projects.
"The Gates Foundation is, in
effect, preparing the ground for them to access new
profitable markets in hitherto closed-off developing
countries, especially in Africa.
The Foundation is especially
pushing for the adoption of GM in Africa," it warns.
One project aims to bring GM vitamin
A-enriched bananas to Uganda.
But field trials have been branded "biopiracy"
since the original gene being used to develop these
'super-bananas' was collected in Papua New Guinea.
The danger, the report says, is that it,
"turns basic needs into commodities
controlled by the market".
Such services are likely to be accessed
mainly by the rich.
It is critical of emphasis on single
diseases and points out that this is being done at the neglect of
basic health care systems. It also points out that during the Ebola
outbreak in West Africa, basic healthcare collapsed completely in
parts of the region.
The report is critical of the close working relations between the
Foundation and major international pharmaceutical corporations and
points out many of the same firms have been criticized for their 'over-pricing
of life-saving' vaccines.
It warns that philanthropic influence is
skewing health priorities,
"towards the interests of wealthy
donors (vaccines) rather than resilient health systems".
It accuses the Gates Foundation of promoting specific priorities
through agriculture grants, some of which undermine the interests of
These include promoting industrial
agriculture, use of chemical fertilizers and expensive, patented
seeds, and a focus on genetically modified seeds.
"Much of the Foundation's work
appears to bypass local knowledge," the report claims.
The criticism echoes the accusations
made by the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva who called the
Gates Foundation the,
"greatest threat to farmers in the
The Foundation's emphasis on
"technological solutions" often ignores real solutions involving
social and economic justice, it argues.
"This cannot be given by donors in
the form of a climate-resilient crop or cheaper smartphone, but
must be about systemic social, economic and political change -
issues not represented in the foundation's funding priorities."
It calls for the Organization of
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to carry out an inquiry into
the foundation's work on top of a British Parliamentary inquiry.
The Gates Foundation said the report "misrepresented" its work.
"Our mission is to improve quality
of life for the world's poorest people.
This is a complex challenge, and
solving it will require a range of approaches as well as the
collaboration of governments, NGOs, academic institutions,
for-profit companies and philanthropic organizations.
Governments are uniquely positioned
to provide the leadership and resources necessary to address
structural inequalities and ensure that the right solutions
reach those most in need.
The private sector has access to
innovations - for example, in science, medicine and technology -
that can save lives. And we believe that the role of
philanthropy is to take risks where others can't or won't."
All its work was guided by its partners,
It refuted claims that it was
unaccountable, stating that it was one of the first to join the
International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) as well as reporting to
Gabriella Stern, spokeswoman for the foundation, said:
"For us, results are measured in
lives saved and so we will continue to work with governments,
non-profits, businesses, and other philanthropists to tackle the
complex issues surrounding extreme poverty.
"The Gates Foundation has spent around $34.5bn since its
inception, driven by its mission to help people around the world
lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. This report
rehashes a series of unfounded claims that have been made by
others and found wanting.
"Much remains to be done but we are confident that the world is
Working together over the last 15
years, the world has cut extreme poverty, child mortality and
malaria deaths by half, reduced maternal mortality by nearly 50
percent, and driven new HIV infections down by 40 per cent."