A world with­out poverty

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Bill Gates

WE live in ex­tra­or­di­nary times. Each day seems to bring fresh head­lines about an un­fold­ing cri­sis - whether it is mi­gra­tion, eco­nomic volatil­ity, se­cu­rity, or cli­mate change. One fac­tor com­mon to all th­ese com­plex and un­prece­dented chal­lenges is poverty; so elim­i­nat­ing it will make overcoming them sig­nif­i­cantly eas­ier.

There is good rea­son for op­ti­mism about progress on re­duc­ing in­equity. Since the turn of the cen­tury, re­mark­able strides have been taken to­ward a world in which ev­ery per­son has the chance to lead a healthy, pro­duc­tive life. Ma­ter­nal deaths have al­most halved; child mor­tal­ity and malaria deaths have halved; ex­treme poverty has more than halved. And last year, the world signed up to fin­ish the job. The cen­ter­piece of the Global Goals to which the United Na­tions' 193 coun­tries agreed in Septem­ber is to end poverty in all its forms ev­ery­where by 2030. We are con­fi­dent that this is not only pos­si­ble, but that we will see ma­jor break­throughs along the way, which will pro­vide un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties to peo­ple in poor coun­tries. In­deed, we think their lives will im­prove faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in his­tory - and that their lives will im­prove more than any­one else's.

But while progress is pos­si­ble, it is not in­evitable. Suc­cess will re­quire political will, global co­op­er­a­tion, and hu­man in­ge­nu­ity - a mes­sage we are tak­ing into our var­i­ous meet- ings and en­gage­ments at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos this week. For our part, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion will fo­cus on the ar­eas of great­est need and take risks that oth­ers can't or won't. This year, we are con­cen­trat­ing our ef­forts in three broad ar­eas.

First, we will con­tinue to sup­port the in­sti­tu­tions that helped get us to where we are now. Since 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has un­locked an un­prece­dented wealth of hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources to com­bat in­fec­tious dis­eases that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect the poor­est. By pro­vid­ing medicines, train­ing doc­tors and nurses, and build­ing stronger health-care sys­tems, the Global Fund has so far helped save 17 mil­lion lives. That is some achieve­ment. And the Fund's pledge con­fer­ence later this year will be an­other op­por­tu­nity to help build a bet­ter world. We need to make the most of it - not only to help save up to eight mil­lion more lives, but also to sup­port health sys­tems in low-in­come coun­tries and thereby re­duce the risk of fu­ture health crises.

Sim­i­larly, since the start of the decade, nearly four mil­lion more peo­ple are alive to­day be­cause they were im­mu­nized against in­fec­tious dis­eases, thanks in large part to the work of Gavi, the Vac­cine Al­liance. In the next five years, Gavi and its part­ners are po­si­tioned to im­mu­nize an­other 300 mil­lion peo­ple, help­ing mil­lions more chil­dren and young peo­ple sur­vive and thrive - and thereby boost­ing de­vel­op­ing-coun­try economies.

Se­cond, women and girls will be at the heart of our en­deav­ors. By any mea­sure, the world is a bet­ter place for women and girls than ever be­fore. But it's still not nearly good enough. They need bet­ter ac­cess to health care, es­pe­cially fam­ily-plan­ning ser­vices; ex­panded eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties; and more de­ci­sion-mak­ing power over their own lives.

Em­pow­er­ing women and girls to trans­form their lives is one of the smartest in­vest­ments we can make. Im­prov­ing their health and well­be­ing, en­sur­ing they get a good education and un­leash­ing their eco­nomic po­ten­tial are fun­da­men­tal to build­ing more pros­per­ous com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries. But we need to im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of how best to em­power women to suc­ceed. And in or­der to over­come cen­turies of gen­der in­equity, we need more mo­men­tum be­hind this agenda. The Women De­liver con­fer­ence in May is the next global op­por­tu­nity to push for more ac­tion and for donors to demon­strate their com­mit­ment.

Third, we will in­vest in in­no­va­tion. Sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are among the great­est driv­ers of poverty re­duc­tion. In just the last few weeks, the world has shown that it is pre­pared to spend more to find new ways to pro­vide re­li­able, af­ford­able, clean en­ergy sources. This is one of the most im­por­tant ways to help poor peo­ple cope with cli­mate change. Mean­while, in­no­va­tions in health care have al­ready brought the world close to wip­ing out po­lio, and we ex­pect to see dra­matic re­sults from a new triple drug ther­apy that could erad­i­cate ele­phan­ti­a­sis, which af­fects 120 mil­lion peo­ple.

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