Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged global leaders Tuesday in his fourth annual letter to invest in innovations that are accelerating progress against poverty, or risk a future in which millions needlessly starve.
The letter describes remarkable progress in the developing world and makes the case to continue investing in efforts that have made a difference for millions of the world’s poorest people.
Over the past 50 years, for example, the percentage of the population living in poverty has fallen from 40 percent to 15 percent, or about 1 billion people. Gates believes it is possible to continue the progress, but only with innovative investments in areas like helping small farmers grow more food, which is the best way to fight hunger and poverty among the poor.
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“The world faces a choice. By spending a relatively little amount of money on proven solutions, we can help poor farmers feed themselves and their families and continue writing the story of a steadily more equitable world,” Gates writes in the letter. “Or we can decide to tolerate a very different world in which one in seven people needlessly lives on the edge of starvation.”
Gates argues that whether it’s fighting plant disease, treating people with AIDS, or getting a polio vaccine to a child in a remote area, modest investments make a huge difference.
“Our guiding principles for those investments are the same as for agriculture: innovation is the means, and equity is the end goal,” said Gates drawing on a number of successes to illustrate progress.
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Gates unveiled his letter in South London at a meeting with students at a high school, where he thanked its students and hundreds of others from around the globe for submitting their own letters.
He went on to discuss its content with a gathering of international development students at the London School of Economics, hosted by the Global Poverty Project at the launch of their new UK global poverty ambassadors program.
The letter from Gates is here: www.gatesfoundation.org/annualletter
Photo courtesy: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation