i’d rather he just drop the money out of an airplane

June 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

i am wondering if i really need to break down why this is not a good thing:

At a United Nations conference focusing on maternal health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a pledge for the cause. The Foundation will spend 1.5 billion dollars to improve maternal health in the countries that have very high rates of death due to pregnancy.

ok. so…quickly…

*gates foundation is too big to listen to folks. instead it creates hegemonic solutions to health problems that need more unique and community-led solutions/

*gates foundation tackles problems that fit a specific first world paradigm, not on the ones necessarily that most affects the local population

*it tackles health problems that are most seen as a threat to the first world, not the ones that are most impt to communities in the third world

*it invests money into corporations that are causing the problems its charitable contributions are attempting to solve

*communities ought to have the right to decide how the money is spent, not gates’ bureaucracy.

1. the bill and melinda gates foundation is the largest foundation in the world.

2. large international non governmental agencies (ingo’s) focus on one-size-fits-all solutions to problems. this is how the gates foundation is run.

3. the most crucial part of doing solidarity work is listening to people.  listen. listen. listen.  and then listen some morethis is what the gates foundation is horrible at, accountability and responsiveness to critique. it is too big to be able to really listen to the people they are claiming to help and support.  instead of listening they have created a bureaucratic mess, full of intermediaries and ngo’s of ngo’s.

4. what we need is a variety of tactics and solutions that come out of the communities themselves, and that respond to the individual and unique needs of the community and its situation.  this is completely at odds with the top down style of  aid work that the gates d0.

5. this foundation has so much money (did i mention that it has too much money?  it does.  no one entity should have that kind of economic control) that it can afford to experiment with huge projects and make fundamental mistakes. (rather than listening to folks on the ground speaking concretely about their needs and their envisioned solutions.) now, dont get me wrong, everyone makes mistakes. daily. and in human rights work, you are fortunate if what you did had on balance, a positive impact.  but bill and melinda’s mistakes means diverting billions of dollars to experiments that prove to be at best ineffective, and at worst harmful, because the policies did not address the primary concerns of local folks.

Efforts have also been made to tackle health challenges through new health technology research and development funding under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative [29].According to global mortality and burden-of-disease calculations, the above-set priorities indeed represent the majority of deaths and ill-health in sub-Saharan Africa [27], but do not represent the majority of ill-health in any other region. They cover less that a third of the global ill-health [24,27]. Today, non-communicable diseases are a cause of the majority of ill-health in developing countries, and their importance is increasing rapidly. They affect all socioeconomic groups and in many cases the risks are biggest in the poorest sections of the populations [25].

Kickbusch [13] argues that global unilateralism has linked the global health agenda to the US national interests, as well as created a systematic effort to respond to the challenge of the present US administration to show effectiveness. As a result, the four Es – economics, effectiveness, efficiency, and evidence – are now the new battle cries for the development community. Selected interventions to eradicate infectious diseases fit well with these premises.

6. ‘There are two kinds of public health – techno-centric and people centric.’

and the kind of medicine and public health that this foundation focuses on is techno-centric and economic efficiency.  we have seen over the past century in the states what happens when maternal and child health are placed within this techno centric paradigm. (the usa ranks 41st for maternal mortality rates.) hegemonic focus on the four e’s rather than agency, autonomy, community, diversity of tactics and resources does not lead to better health care for women and children.

actually what we are seeing is that global health ngo’s focus are on those issues ( for example: HIV/AIDS, SARS and diseases like tuberculosis and malaria) that

are being perceived by the G-8 countries as a threat to their national security and are becoming part of their foreign policy concerns. In order to contain some of these threats, a Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) has been established by these countries to provide donations on a result oriented basis to the developing countries to contain these diseases on a war footing. The large pharmaceuticals and charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also on the governing board of this fund and WHO merely acts as a secretariat. The GFATM is one of the examples of the GHPPPs. (what are GHPPP’s? — Mr. Kofi Annan declared in the year 1995, the famous UN compact with the private sector and the originations like UNICEF and WHO started a new era of global health public private partnerships – GHPPP. It is very important to understand the functioning of these new institutions of global governance in order to make sense of some of the major public health and disease control initiatives in the developing countries today.)

which makes me wonder what are the G8’s national security concerns around maternal and child mortality in the developing world?

a technocentric focus leads to aid funding centering around the concerns of the most technological advanced countries (the G8)

7. i hate the sentiment: well, this may not be perfect, but its better than nothing.  actually what i would LOVE  is for bill gates to not do a damn thing more for the world.

really, he has done enough in the world.

-is the worlds largest private philanthropy causing harm with the same money that it uses to do good…gates foundation has an endowment of more than 30 billion dollars, and warren buffet has given another 31 billion dollars

-la times investigation reveals that the gates foundation humanitarian concerns are not reflected in how it invests its money.

-gates foundation has investments in 69 of the worst polluting companies in the us and canada.

-overall the gates foundation has invested over 9 billion dollars in companies whose actions go counter to the gates foundations charitable goals and mission. that number may be understated the gates foundation has not provided information about 4 billion dollars in investments that it calls ‘loans’

-in the niger delta where the gates foundation invests its money to fight polio and malaria, it has also invested 400 million dollars into oil companies such as exxon and royal dutch shell. niger delta is an important economic area for nigeria where most of the oil and gas resources are and where n. american and european companies have been given basically free range to act as they wish.  gas flares blaze 300 feet day and night, these flares spew soot and toxic chemicals into the air that cause a range of health problems in the local populations. problems like asthma and undifferentiated respiratory problems. the pollution from the plants reduce immunity and make the children who are vaccinated more susceptible to polio and malaria.

-niger delta flaring is by far the worst in the world. flaring happens because it is cheaper for the oil companies to burn off the excess gas that the companies are producing than to dispose of it in a less harmful way.

-the firewall, aka blind eye investments:  gates foundation is pouring money into humanitarian causes and also pouring money into the polluting companies.  american foundations generally give away about 5 percent of their net assets every year, which allows them to avoid most taxes, the other 95 percent is invested into securities, stocks, bonds. gates foundation established a firewall betw. the people who manage its investments and the people who give away its grants. there is no efforts made to insure that the investments dont contravene the humanitarian aid. so, the 95 percent tends to go to companies that are not just doing ‘some harm’ but that directly go to companies whose actions tend to subvert the charitable goals of the foundation.

-1.4 billion dollars of gates money goes to pharmaceutical companies who tend to price their drugs out of reach to the very people that the gates foundation has decided are its primary target, aids patients in the developing world.

-one of the highest priorities has been to address homelessness in the pacific northwest usa. as the gates foundation was giving millions to assisting ppl in unstable housing, they were also invested in over 2 billion dollars in the sub prime industry.

8.  i shake my head at the idea of cheering that the gates foundation has decided to ‘tackle’ maternal and child mortality rates.  while this issue is a huge concern for me as a midwife and a mother, i know that good intentions can often do more harm than good. and the gates foundation is a prime example of that.  when five percent of your investments goes to trying to off set the harm that the other 95 percent of your money is invested in continuing, well, that doesn’t balance out – not by a long shot.  people are not poor and sick just because they need some education, they are poor and sick because their land, air, water, sky, and very bodies have been stolen and poisoned by industrial civilizations, by empires and corporations, the very corporations that gates invests in. using the priorities of industrial civilization (the four e’s) to address the incredible, mind-numbing harm that industrial civilization causes does not work.

9. i am thinking about derrick jensen’s premise twenty of endgame:

  • Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.
  • Modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.
  • Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.
  • Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.
  • Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.

10. so this human rights kid i was talking to a couple of weeks ago, we’ll call her ‘cultural genocide-chick‘ asked me, well, what would you have bill gates do with his money, since you think he has too much.  i told her i’d rather her convert it all to one, five, ten, and twenty dollar bills and toss it out an airplane into the streets.  that in my opinion would do more good in the world than the gates foundation has ever done.  😉  she looked at me appalled.

really i say:  if you are wondering where to give your money, ask the communities themselves, not the foundation.


§ 2 Responses to i’d rather he just drop the money out of an airplane

  • Paco says:

    The fuck kinda people you always hanging out with?

    You’re right we need to have a meet up in some random country sometime.

    personally, I try to stay away from NGO workers as much as possible. but at the same time there is something fun about reading about your terrible conversations with them…

    whenever I’m introduced as one and then someone else says they are an NGO worker and wants to talk about it with me, it’s usually the worst. They think we have some kind of camaraderie and wanna talk “NGO” or some shit. They think its like that but tis not like that. When I say NGO (and I try not to if I can help it) I mean the literal meanings of the words (albeit not much, except “we’re a group and we aren’t the fucking government”) not some bullshit bureaucratic social ladder climbing, slap our damn logo everywhere, drive a bright white toyota SUV washed daily by the people i’m “helping/saving” nonsense. parasites, we’re parasites, we’re parasites, we’re parasites.

    It’s sad to hear that the Gates foundation is messing things up worldwide, I had always just assumed they just weren’t doing anything. But then maybe they just don’t work anywhere where I’ve been. But now I realize that neither or those are very likely.

  • mama says:

    lol paco. i swear, it is really only since i came to cairo that i got to meet this level of … quality of folks. the expat community here is fucked. yes, live vicariously through me. do not engage these people directly. save yourself, and your faith in humanity.
    i have a couple of posts coming up detailing fun convos i have with ngo workers here…oh cultural genocide chic was though extra special with some ayn rand sauce thrown in on the side. hee hee…

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