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SEATTLE -- Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today released his first annual letter on the work of the foundation—a candid and personal appraisal of the foundation’s efforts to date that also identifies his priorities for the future.
Gates explains why he remains optimistic about the ability of government, business, nonprofit organizations, and individuals to expand opportunity and equity in the years to come. He notes progress among many high schools that now send 100 percent of their low-income students to college, and he cites the declining rates of childhood mortality in the developing world. Gates hopes his letter will begin a dialogue and inspire action among stakeholders on some of the most pressing issues facing the world today.
Gates outlines new, ambitious goals for the foundation’s work to improve global health, address hunger and poverty, and improve education in the United States:
Cut childhood deaths from rotavirus in half.
Help millions of the poorest farming households in Africa and South Asia triple their incomes by 2025.
By 2025, help 80 percent of U.S. students graduate from high school, ready to succeed in college.
In the face of the global economic crisis, Gates makes a strong case for increased foreign assistance to poor countries, and praises the U.S. government’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program as a key example of how government investment has helped save millions of lives around the world. He explains that foundations are uniquely positioned to help the world’s poorest, by making high-risk, long-term investments where the market and governments cannot.
“I believe that the wealthy have a responsibility to invest in addressing inequity. This is especially true when the constraints on others are so great,” says Gates. He added that if investments are not made, "we will come out of the economic downtown in a world even more unequal, with greater inequities in health and education and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives. There is no reason to accept that, when we know how to make huge gains over the long term.”
Since its inception in 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $19.9 billion to these issues. As of October 1, 2008 the foundation’s endowment totaled $35.1 billion.