Bill Gates’ pledge at Davos of $10 billion over the coming decade to help develop vaccines and distribute them to children in the developing world prompted the Wall Street Journal Europe to ask a number of prominent figures in the philanthropy or development world how they would spend that amount. The responses ranged from carbon-capture toilets to medical research prizes.
It’s a large sum, of course, but most felt that it wouldn’t be nearly enough to address the challenges they had in mind. Sir Percy Barnevik, chairman of Hand in Hand International, would spend the money on creating jobs as the best route to ending poverty. While Western governments give this top priority, he pointed out, it is a low priority for aid programmes. Mo Ibrahim would spend the money on developing national or regional statistics offices in Africa to allow for better policy-making and interventions.
Develop carbon-capture toilets, says Nic Francis of Cool nrg. Toilets that capture methane and use the gas as a cooking fuel would both produce an alternative fuel source and solve the sanitation problem ‘more or less overnight’. (Not surprisingly, most suggestions were drawn from respondents’ own area of interest.) Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Médecins Sans Frontières would create a prize fund to stimulate medical research to counter the ‘shocking neglect’ of medical innovation for diseases of the poor. He would also ‘make sure that the money is linked with efforts to keep medicines affordable’.
Don’t spend it, invest it, urges Dr Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation – on creating the will and the technical and financial means to develop successful innovations and take them to a wider scale. Sir Ronald Cohen of Bridges Ventures suggests the creation of social investment banks to boost social entrepreneurship by seeding ‘a powerful and effective social investment sector across the world’.
Stanley Fink of Absolute Return for Kids (ARK) would establish schools in the poorest parts of the world, in the belief that ‘a decent education is the single most effective tool to raise the well-being of every member of society’. Invest it in the fight against climate change, says Dame Barbara Stocking, chief executive of Oxfam GB: it is the single greatest issue and aggravates all other development challenges. It is ‘the main obstacle to Oxfam’s aid efforts across 90 countries’.
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