Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Problem with Philanthropy

SOYMB blog has posted a number of articles critical of philanthropy by the wealthy therefore we were not surprised by the contents of this new report which accuses the Gates Foundation of funding privatised health and promoting an increased role for private education providers. 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. The Gates Foundation has spent around $34.5bn since its inception.

Far from a “neutral charitable strategy”, the Gates Foundation is about benefiting big business, especially in agriculture and health, through its “ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation,” according to the report published by the campaign group Global Justice. Its influence is “dangerously skewing” aid priorities, the group says. The group accuse the Gates Foundation of using its massive financial clout to silence international development experts and groups which would criticise its practices. 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.”

“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.”

Bill Gates, the report claims, “who has regular access to world leaders and is in effect personally bankrolling hundreds of universities, international organisations, NGOs and media outlets, has become the single most influential voice in international development.”

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 criticised 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 small farmers. These include promoting industrial agriculture, use of chemical fertilisers and expensive, patented seeds, and a focus on genetically modified seeds. The Foundation is the world’s biggest funder of GM crop research, the report claims. Huge corporations including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dupont, 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.

“Much of the Foundation’s work appears to bypass local knowledge,” the report claims. The criticism Vandana Shiva who called the Gates Foundation the “greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.” 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.”




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