As an international NGO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been committed to improving health on a global scale since it was founded in its current form 20 years ago. The impetus to found it at that time was the health situation in many poorer countries: the HIV/Aids epidemic was rampant, and also around twice as many children and infants died from preventable diseases in the 1990s, for example from diarrhoea. Computer-pioneer Bill Gates and his then wife Melinda were initially motivated by a desire to stop people from dying from preventable diseases.
Both have pledged to give 95% of their fortune to the foundation until they die. The assets of the foundation itself are to be spent no later than 20 years after their death.
Focus of the work and guiding principles
Since being founded, the BMGF has been committed to global health by promoting projects and international networking. There is currently around 5 billions euros of funding available every year for work in over 100 countries. The work mainly focuses on the areas of health, development and equal opportunities, not only in relation to gender, but also to issues such as economic development or food.
Regardless of the issue, the guiding principle of the Gates Foundation is cooperation - with multilateral organisations, business and research and with partners on the ground. The foundation’s projects are often aimed at ensuring people in poorer countries have access to medicine, vaccines or other essential items, which are the norm elsewhere.
For example, the BMGF pledged over 750 million US dollars to set up Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance about 20 years ago. The organisation now helps 822 million children in 77 countries with routine vaccinations and more than 1.1 billion campaign vaccinations have been supported by Gavi.
Furthermore, the foundation focuses on research and development in areas where there are still no resources. Here, the main focus is on cooperation, with attempts made to bring together stakeholders from different areas of politics, business and society in a targeted way to find solutions to problems.
The Gates Foundation is currently involved to a large degree in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, it has provided more than 1.8 billion US dollars. The aim of its involvement is to come up with a global response to the crisis that also includes middle and low-income countries. “There is no national solution for a global crisis. We can only overcome the pandemic when everyone, no matter where they live, has access to vaccines. All countries must work together to bring an end to the pandemic and start rebuilding the economy” said Tobias Kahler, who manages the work of the Gates Foundation in Germany.
Europe office in Berlin
In the spirit of worldwide networking for global health, the BMGF opened a new Europe office in Berlin in 2018. This is the second office in Europe following the opening of the London office in 2010. With the office in Berlin, the Gates Foundation wants to strengthen relationships with partner organisations and politicians in Germany and beyond.
“Berlin has developed into a centre for politicians, researchers and stakeholders from civil society from all around the world who are committed to development in global health. With the Europe office in Berlin, we want to expand the foundation’s network in Germany and Europe. We’re looking forward to contributing our expertise in health and development as we collaborate with governments and other organisations and to working together to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people”, explained Dr. Anja Langenbucher, director of the foundation’s European office at its opening.
Involvement at the World Health Summit
The annual World Health Summit in the capital is a special international forum for global health. The Gates Foundation supports its goals, and values it above all for the exchange of questions on global health. This is why the BMGF is always represented as a guest, including Bill Gates giving a keynote speech at the summit in 2018. Experts from the foundation will participate again this year - including Dr. Ann Ginsberg as a speaker on the topic “Novel Vaccine Platforms for Emerging Pandemics and Existing Epidemics”.
- BMGF story https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/our-story
- Fact Sheet: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/foundation-fact-sheet
- Gav, the Vaccine Alliance https://www.gavi.org/operating-model/gavis-partnership-model/bill-melinda-gates-foundation