By Elohor Igbru
The largest humanitarian organisation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced its largest-ever annual budget in its bid to tackle inequality, poverty and to bridge the gap in development funding caused by the Covid-19 pandemic around the world.
Announcing the budget of $8.3 billion for the year 2023, the CEO of the foundation, Mark Suzman in his annual letter also shared examples of how the foundation uses its resources, voice, and convening power to call attention to and help find solutions for problems that otherwise might be neglected.
According to Suzman, the budget—the largest in the foundation’s history—is a response to multiple crises that threaten to stall or reverse global progress on the Sustainable Development Goals since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include war, economic turmoil, climate-related disasters, and large decreases in vaccinations for preventable infectious diseases, all of which have taken a significant toll on the world’s poorest people. The board of trustees’ approval of the budget puts the foundation on track to meet its commitment to reach an annual payout of US$9 billion by 2026—and represents a 15% increase over the 2022 forecasted payout.
“This is the toughest period for global health and development in recent memory, but in some ways, it’s also the reason we exist. To help meet the great needs ahead, we are doubling down on our commitment to our core mission: ensuring everyone can live a healthy and productive life,” he said.
People in low- and middle-income countries, particularly women and girls, are facing the severe consequences of intersecting global crises, yet the world has so far failed to step up with the necessary political will and resources to respond.
In his annual letter, Suzman addressed questions about the scale of the foundation’s influence and its access to global leaders.Using examples from the foundation’s work on climate adaptation, malaria, and U.S. education, he detailed how the foundation catalyzes and advocates for solutions, brings diverse voices to decision-making tables, and fills market gaps.
He also discussed the role the foundation plays in setting global health and development priorities. “The foundation doesn’t set the world’s agenda—we respond to it,” Suzman said, referencing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Highlighting areas where the foundation makes big bets, Suzman reflected on the unique role of philanthropic capital, particularly in times of crisis. From improving vaccination rates to advancing women’s economic power, the foundation uses its funds, expertise, relationships, and voice where it can make the biggest impact measured in lives saved and opportunities created for all to reach their full potential. It does so by funding innovations that may not be financially attractive or feasible for the private sector or governments, stepping in where markets fail, and investing in R&D that would otherwise never leave the lab.
“Our role is to ensure that decision-makers—be they school board members or cassava growers or health ministers—have the best possible options to choose from and the best possible data to inform their decisions. And where there’s a solution that can improve livelihoods and save lives, we’ll advocate persistently for it,” Suzman said.