The Gates Foundation is determined to find a way to work with the administration, but the Gateses won’t ask the billionaire president to take the “giving pledge” — at least not right away.
Melinda Gates says she and her husband hope to convince the Trump administration of the value of foreign aid.
Speaking Wednesday at a 10th anniversary celebration for the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health and in an interview with The Seattle Times, Gates said that while U.S. funding for foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget, it has a huge impact on people around the world.
“It’s incredibly important for both humanitarian reasons and for peace and security reasons,” said the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s biggest philanthropy. “I think what you will continue to hear Bill and I saying very vociferously, very publicly, is (that) that less than 1 percent portion of the budget is highly effective.”
Foreign aid can be a powerful tool in promoting global stability, she explained.
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“Families don’t necessarily want to uproot from their communities, and they certainly don’t want to go across the high seas in a terrible boat to try to make it to Europe,” she said. “But they are not finding the economic opportunity, they are not having good health where they are.”
Programs like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, created by George W. Bush, have been lifesavers for people in poor countries with high rates of HIV, Gates pointed out.
“I’ve literally met moms and dads who are alive because of PEPFAR and the investments that have been made,” she said.
President Trump has been largely silent on the issue of foreign aid, but his emphasis on “America first” has many in the field concerned.
Gates said she is encouraged by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s background as CEO of ExxonMobil. The oil giant’s foundation funds programs to fight malaria and improve economic opportunities for women around the world.
“I think he understands some of these global health issues,” she said.
Though the Gates Foundation has an endowment that exceeds $30 billion, it takes the kind of money that only governments can muster to mount large-scale efforts to fight poverty and improve health, Gates said.
The Gates Foundation has worked with every administration so far, and it will figure out a way to work with the Trump administration, she said.
“It could be with this administration, the place they will feel more comfortable with investments might be around peace and security, and we can make that argument, too.”
But Gates said she and her husband won’t soon be asking President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other billionaires in the Cabinet to take the “Giving Pledge” and join some of the world’s richest families in pledging most of their wealth to philanthropy.
“This doesn’t seem like the right time to do that,” she said. “So it will probably be further down the line.”