Every year, the Bill and Melinda Foundation puts together a report card of sorts on where we stand in being able to achieve the sustainable development goals. And it's not surprising that progress has stalled, especially in the wake of the pandemic and now, the Russia-Ukraine War.
The foundation's co-chairperson and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, in an exclusive interview with CNBCTV-18's Shereen Bhan, concedes that we are facing more challenges now than we were before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
"Yeah, we do have to be honest (in) that we're facing more challenges than ever," Gates said.However, Gates sees a silver lining — with committment and innovation, we can haul ourselves back to pre-pandemic levels. "We were making a lot of progress before the pandemic. And by staying committed to the aid levels and innovation, we can get back on track and resume reduction of poverty, empowerment of women, you know ... we can't give up hope, you know, every life saved is super important. But we are way behind," Gates said.
Also important, according to Gates, is the empowerment of women, especially fiscal empowerment.
"Digital bank accounts, an area in which even the pandemic reinforced innovation (to) let you get money out, particularly to women, in a very effective fashion," he said.
But getting back on the subject of aid commitment, he says philanthropic organisations such as his are doing everything they can, but are no match for aid funds set up by rich countries.
"Well, the big money in terms of helping poor countries is from the aid budgets of the rich countries. In no way can philanthropy can make up for that generosity — philanthropy can participate, you know, in things like Polio Global Fund, the vaccine fund," he said.
Gates added, "Our foundation is right up there with some of the big European donors. We're also a big funder of the upstream innovation. So whether it's better seeds for farmers to deal with climate problems, or new vaccines for things like tuberculosis, we are a very big funder."
He says once the new vaccine is invented, or new technology is created, it doesn't require as much money upstream as the focus will be on getting it out to the world.
But, Gates admits staying committed is difficult when faced by domestic challenges."Commitment, generosity, is difficult when domestic challenges like cost of electricity throughout Europe is demanding a lot more of their budget than it did before.