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BBC looks at “secretive” and powerful Gates Foundation | 

News analysis

Tom Paulson

Bill and Melinda Gates speak at Malaria Forum, with moderator ABC News' Richard Besser

The BBC has done an extensive (40 min) report on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation titled “Fortress Bill.” It is available for six more days online and will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 8.

The BBC introduces the Gates Foundation as the world’s largest philanthropy aimed at helping the poor:

“Yet it remains an often secretive and hard to penetrate organization, which arouses suspicion on some sectors of the aid community.”

My friend and colleague Laurie Garrett, with the Council on Foreign Relations, is interviewed by the BBC and notes that the influence of private philanthropy in global health and development is on the increase — which means policy is often set behind closed doors by a select group of people:

“What we think is global health, how we define this mission, is increasingly decided by a relatively small number of Americans living in Seattle, Washington.”

The dominance of the Gates Foundation has led to a bias toward scientific, technological and private-sector solutions, says Garrett. Science and technological improvements are needed, she says, but this focus ends up crowding out all of the other — social, political and economic — changes necessary to defeat the diseases of poverty. Continue reading

A close, hard look at the 8,000-lb gorilla, the Gates Foundation | 

Tom Paulson

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest philanthropy and today perhaps the most influential player in global health — and certainly a leading voice across the entire aid and development sphere.

Some think the Gates Foundation is a bit too big and influential, and not accountable enough. Critics say it is driving the agenda on many fronts in the fight against poverty and disease — and driving out dissenting voices. The Seattle philanthropy, even if well-intended, does favor certain strategies. Not everyone agrees with them.

Earlier this week, the Hudson Institute held a forum called Living with the Gates Foundation, based on an earlier set of articles for Alliance magazine gathered under the same headline.

Caroline Preston at The Chronicle of Philanthropy covered the forum and wrote about it at Confronting the Gates Foundation’s ‘Brass Knuckle’ Dominance. (The headline may seem a bit over the top, but the article provides a great overview of the lengthy forum.) Writes Preston:

Tim Ogden, editor of Philanthropy Action, and Laura Freschi, of New York University’s Development Research Institute, described the extent of Gates’s dominance and how its vast resources can squelch dissent. While other philanthropies are trying to help get the ball across the goal line on issues they care about, Mr. Ogden said, Gates is “creating the ball, building the team, hiring the referees,” and “funding the instant replay.”

To its credit, the Gates Foundation sent a representative, Darin McKeever, deputy director of charitable sector support, who participated in the discussion.

Generally speaking, the concern many at this forum have with the Gates Foundation is not that the philanthropy is pursuing some hidden, sinister objective (though that would be a lot more entertaining). The concern is that they have become so powerful and influential on these critically important matters — yet remain somewhat inscrutable, aloof and relatively unaccountable.

If you want to watch the whole forum, here’s the Hudson Institute’s video: