Bill Gates warns war in Ukraine is undermining Europe’s foreign aid budgets

Russia’s war in Ukraine is straining Europe’s commitment to international aid and climate action, Bill Gates has said, warning the world is on track to miss almost every United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that its leaders have pledged to achieve by 2030.

“This is the toughest set of challenges global development has ever faced,” the co-chairman of the world’s largest private philanthropic organization told the Financial Times, adding that he hoped the prime minister’s new government British Liz Truss would not make further cuts overseas. aid budget.

Collectively, EU countries contribute nearly half of all official development assistance. Gates acknowledged that the costs of donor countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic have made it more difficult to navigate the internal politics of international aid. But “the war in Ukraine, I would say, is even worse” because of Europe’s outsized spending on areas ranging from food security to gender equality, he said.

“The war in Ukraine is stretching their budgets with defense costs, refugee costs, electricity subsidies and shipping costs,” he said.

As deadlines approach to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, “our goal is . . . to emphasize that these budgets should not be reduced if possible”.

The UK, the biggest donor to the Gavi vaccine alliance, cut overseas aid spending from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2020, citing the Covid crisis -19. Rishi Sunak, then chancellor, said last year the controversial cut would be canceled in 2024-25.

“In the short term, we are not going to go back to 0.7 [per cent]but we hope to maintain the 0.5%,” Gates said.

In 2015, nearly 200 countries signed up to UN goals to address challenges ranging from hunger to climate change. In their annual progress report, released on Tuesday, Gates and his ex-wife Melinda French Gates wrote: “Seven years later, the world is on track to achieve almost none of the goals.”

They added that, as things stand, “we would need to accelerate the rate of our progress five times faster to achieve most of our goals.” Even that might be an underestimate, according to the report, “because some of the projections do not yet take into account the impact of the pandemic, let alone the war in Ukraine or the food crisis it triggered in Africa”.

In particular, the conflict in Ukraine has “significantly exacerbated” food security concerns, Gates Foundation chief executive Mark Suzman said. Global gender equality is no longer expected until 2108, three generations later than once projected, French Gates noted.

What Gates called ‘pretty alarming’ statistics come after he poured another $20 billion of the fortune he made at Microsoft into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to try to accelerate progress against diseases avoidable, inequality and poverty.

The data echoes an estimate last week that the funding gap to meet UN goals has increased by a third to $135 billion over the past year. “Progress on multiple SDGs has been rolled back,” says the report from Force for Good, an initiative backed by companies including BlackRock, HSBC, Nomura and UBS.

The Gates Foundation co-chairs tempered their warnings with hope that innovation and investment in areas such as drought-tolerant seeds and digital financial inclusion could drive progress towards the goals.

“Failure is not inevitable,” Gates told the FT. “I remain optimistic.”