May. 29, 2009
A recent research study criticises the Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation on the way the spending on health are distributed. The study, published in the medical journal Lancet, questions the accountability and impact of the granting of funds by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2007 the amount spent by the Gates foundation, USD 1.22 billion, almost equalled the funds spent by the WHO. David McCoy, the author of the study, alleges that the granting by the charitable foundation is largely managed through an informal network of personal relations. The study notes a lack of a formal grant making processes based on independent peer review.
McCoy exemplifies his criticism with the fact that a large amount of funding is concentrated with a few US based institutions. He notes that the Institute for OneWorld Health, along with Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and Columbia University were together given grants worth a total of USD $559 million. McCoy also claims that the Gates foundation focuses too heavily on developing new technology, like new vaccines and neglects existing low-tech solutions that do not reach the potential recipients due to social or political factors.
In conclusion the research study states that the Gates foundation has enormous leverage in the area of health care in developing countries, through which it diminishes the power of institutions like Ministries of Health in low-income countries and accentuates disparities between developed and developing countries. McCoy is a renowned activist for the NGOs Global Health Watch and Peoples’ Health Movement.
It seems that the charity is now becoming increasingly the target of activists. As charity efforts in fields like health, education, arts or science compete more and more with government sponsored initiatives, they will be scrutinised, criticised and attacked by leftist NGOs and the anti-globalisation movement. Those politically motivated movements fear the success of private initiatives, which in their eyes may one day replace the government sponsored aid. Wealthy individuals who are setting up their own charities or who are giving on a large scale to charitable organisations need to be prepared to respond to such negative campaigns. As many global corporations have learned to defend their activities, especially in developing markets, philanthropists would also need to build viable defence strategies. Pre-emptive public relations, good advisors and a strong network of allies would be critical elements of their strategies.