Super Power Gates Foundation doing more than WHO and Government

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is already the world's largest philanthropic organization, with a $30.6 billion endowment, and a track record in targeting the world's three biggest killers -- AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The Wall Street Journal reports that last year, the Gates Foundation spent $1.36 billion on these purposes --approaching the World Health Organization's budget for 2006, of $1.66 billion.

Now it will have an extra $30.7 billion courtesy Warren Buffett's gift. Health experts agree that Gates’ and Buffett's money will go a long way toward saving the lives of millions of sick people, and pulling others from Asia to Africa out of poverty.

The Los Angeles Times points out that the Gates-Buffett philanthropic partnership, which totals about $60 billion, is 40 times the annual budget of the World Health Organization.

Gates provides $200 million to India for HIV/AIDS prevention and education in India, a figure which dwarfs the Indian government's entire budget for the disease.

Before Buffett made his announcement about his outstanding donation, the challenge was already being issued to governments not to use this new bounty as an excuse to pull back from their responsibilities.


How $60 Billion Behemoth Will Affect World Charity

What impact will a $60 billion megacharitable foundation have on the causes it espouses, and on the world of philanthropy in general?

As the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation prepares to roughly double in size in coming years with a massive contribution from Warren Buffett, will its financial firepower and entrepreneurial approach change the course of global health care, and even society? Or will its size work against it, sucking oxygen from other efforts and attracting critics at every turn?

The Gates Foundation will receive only a small portion of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Mr. Buffett's $30.7 billion gift this year. But the charity is already the world's largest philanthropic organization with a $30.6 billion endowment.

Since its founding in 1994 it has built a track record in targeting the world's three biggest killers -- AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- among other major scourges, and funding programs in prevention, diagnosis and treatment using existing tests, drugs and vaccines.

Last year, the Gates Foundation spent $1.36 billion -- approaching the World Health Organization's budget for 2006 of $1.66 billion.

Mr. Gates said at the news conference, "If you want to deal with billions of people, you need scale."

[Excerpt of article by Sally Beatty, Marilyn Chase and Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal]


Soros Extends Foundations' Life

In the shadow of all the publicity surrounding Warren Buffett's huge charitable commitment, you may have missed this otherwise big news about George Soros.

The billionaire philanthropist had long planned to shutter his global network of foundations before he died. But now, the 75-year-old financier says that he is taking steps to continue to fund the network.

Mr. Soros plans to create a board to oversee his Open Society Institute and its offshoots, which support democracy, human rights, education, public health and other causes. And the board will have a Soros presence, in that he intends to name his son Jonathan Soros -- the co-deputy chairman of Soros Fund Management, his investment business -- a member.

Mr. Soros is also actively looking for ways to step up his donations. Last week, at a meeting of foundation officials in Istanbul, Turkey, he announced that he is making an additional $200 million available over several years for new projects. (His foundations give away roughly $400 million a year.) So far, Mr. Soros, has given away nearly $5 billion.

[Excerpt of an article by Sallie Beatty The Wall Street Journal]


Buffett to give away billions

Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest man, said he will soon start giving away almost all of his fortune to charity, most of it going to a foundation controlled by the world's richest man, Bill Gates, Fortune magazine reported Sunday.

Buffett, who amassed his $44 billion fortune over the last three decades through his control of Berkshire Hathaway, will start transferring his stock in the company over to five foundations this year. The largest portion -- five-sixths -- will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fortune said.

Buffett said he chose the Gates Foundation because "I came to realize that there was a terrific foundation that was already scaled-up -- that wouldn't have to go through the real grind of getting to a megasize like the Buffett Foundation would -- and that could productively use my money now."

The Gates Foundation focuses mostly on international health programs -- fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis -- and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools, Fortune said. Buffett will join the Gates Foundation board.

Bill and Melinda Gates issued a written statement Sunday saying they were "awed" by Buffett's decision.

[Excerpt from CNN]

Warren Buffett gives away his fortune

We were sitting in a Manhattan living room on a spring afternoon, and Warren Buffett warned with a grin, "Brace yourself." He then described a momentous change in his thinking. Within months, he said, he would begin to give away his Berkshire Hathaway fortune, then and now worth well over $40 billion.

This news was indeed stunning. Buffett, 75, has for decades said his wealth would go to philanthropy but has just as steadily indicated the handoff would be made at his death. Now he was revising the timetable.

I know what I want to do," he said, "and it makes sense to get going." And it is typical Buffett: rational, original, breaking the mold of how extremely rich people donate money.

[Excerpt of article by Carol J. Loomis, Fortune]


Spreading The Wealth

When Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced that he'll be leaving daily operations at Microsoft to work full-time at his charitable foundation, he became part of a larger tradition. Gates now stands alongside other entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists such as the Rockefellers, the Gettys and the Fords.

Not to mention Omidyar, Brainerd and Kirsch. While they're less famous, they're worth noting, too. Like Gates, many of the recent generation of foundation-founders made their money in the dot-com boom or the software industry.

[Excerpt of article by Tara Weiss and Hannah Clark, Forbes]


Foundations taking lead in social change

Foundations are becoming the leading architects of social and global change -- surpassing political action, government, business and education -- that will affect populations, economies, culture and politics, the president and CEO of the international Council on Foundations said recently.

"Politics has become so polarized that ... it can't solve problems."

When Microsoft founder and president Bill Gates recently announced his intentions to leave the company and dedicate his life to addressing HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Africa, when people think about global health, they think of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and not a government program, a politician or a pharmaceutical company, he said.

Unlike the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Mellon foundations of a century ago that awarded grants to libraries and arts organizations with the best applications, the Gates and other modern foundations are taking a focused, strategic and global approach to their causes.

[Excerpt of an article by Tom Morton, The Casper Star Tribune]


Iraqi Charities Plant Seed of Civil Society

In the wave of lawlessness and frantic self-interest that has washed over this war-weary nation, small acts of pure altruism often go unnoticed. Like the tiny track suits and dresses that Najat al-Saiedi takes to children of displaced families in the dusty, desperate Shiite slum of Shoala. Or the shelter that Suad al-Khafaji gives to, among others, the five children she found living in a garage in northern Baghdad last year.

But the Iraqi government has been taking note of such good works, and now, more than three years after the American invasion, the outlines of a nascent civil society are taking shape.

Since 2003 the government has registered 5,000 private organizations, including charities, human rights groups, medical assistance agencies and literacy projects. Officials estimate that an additional 7,000 groups are working unofficially. The efforts show that even as violence and sectarian hatred tear Iraq's mixed cities apart, a growing number of Iraqis are trying to bring them together.

"Iraqis were thirsty for such experiences," said Khadija Tuma, director of the office in the Ministry of Civil Society Affairs that now works with the private aid groups. "It was as if they already had it inside themselves."

The new charity groups offer bits of relief in the sea of poverty that swept Iraq during the economic embargo of the 1990's and has worsened with the pervasive lawlessness that followed the American invasion.

[Excerpt of article by Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times]


Picture yourself as a well-to-do refugee

You see photos of refugees in the media, but how much do you know of their gut wrenching lives, turned upside down in the blink of an eye. Here’s one such story:

Like the time I ran into Marcus Sawyer, once a wealthy attorney in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Sawyer owned holiday homes in South Africa, an apartment in the south of France, real estate in Dubai. You name it, he had it. He had some big clients in the country, including influential government officials.

One day rebels invaded the capital and Sawyer, his family and thousands of Liberians were forced to flee and seek refuge in the city's soccer stadium, the former home of the national team, The Lone Stars.

Suddenly it was home to more than 50,000 internally displaced people, or "IDPs," and would become Sawyer's new residence for the next six months.

"I never imagined in my wildest dreams I'd end up like this," he once told me, "sharing an outdoor pit latrine with a thousand people, sleeping in the same room with dozens of strangers. It takes some getting used to.

The last time I saw Sawyer he had become a shell of his old self -- dejected, depressed and despondent.

[From an article by Jeff Koinange, CNN]


The hopeless life of a refugee

CNN's Jeff Koinange has spent years covering events from Africa, including visiting war and disaster zones and following the lives of refugees forced from their homes. Here are his reflections on the U.N.'s World Refugee Day:

Just imagine for a moment that everything you own -- from your hard-earned money to your home to your car to little mementos like pictures on the wall -- has just been taken from you by a group of people who don't like the way you look or the shade of your skin or the shape of your nose. Everything gone except, perhaps, the clothes on your back.

You've been forced to flee, probably separated from your family and end up on the run with a bunch of people you've never met, but with whom you now share a common goal -- staying alive.

Many hours or even days later, you arrive at a shelter run by an international nongovernmental organization.

You're tired, exhausted, sick to your stomach and scared to death. You end up sharing a tent with 40 to 60 other strangers where your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen combined have all been reduced to little more than the size of a normal bed.

And this will be your home for the next few months, perhaps years, and in some cases, decades. This is what it's like for a person fleeing persecution, war, civil strife, genocide.

Imagine living like this for years if not decades, raising your family in a refugee camp because you can't go home. Even if you do manage to go home, you learn someone else has taken over your land, your home, your life.

I've seen that person many times, that face that says, "I too once had it all but one day lost it all."


Rich Richer, Poor Poorer

The irony of today's headlines: Reports of more millionaires worldwide, as well as more refugees as a result of poverty and war.

Global millionaires increase: The number of people globally with more than $1 million in net assets rose 6.5 percent in 2005 to 8.7 million, according to a report released on Tuesday. The 10th annual World Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch and consultants Capgemini found this group of millionaires owned $33.3 trillion in net assets in 2005. The figures exclude their primary residence. Those with financial assets of more than $30 million -- known as ultra high net worth individuals -- grew to 85,400.

The number of U.S. millionaires slowed, but it remained home to the greatest number with 2.67 million millionaires. Germany had 767,000 millionaires, the UK had 448,000 and China had 320,000 in 2005, according to the survey. Brazil had 109,000, Russia had 103,000 and India had 83,000.

The survey authors forecast that the financial wealth of millionaires around the globe will reach $44.6 trillion by 2010, growing at an annual rate of 6.0 percent.

Meanwhile, no end in sight for Africa's suffering masses: Veteran correspondent Jeff Koinange ends his report on refugees in Africa with the following statement:

"What makes us revert to our basic, animalistic instinct? What makes one ethnic group want to destroy another? After all, this is the 21st century. Are we not yet civilized? Questions I'll be asking myself for a long time. There seems no end in sight for the agony of Africa's suffering masses."

The first group mentioned sharing some of their wealth with the second group would be a start.


Doomsday vault

The high-security vault, almost half the length of a football field, will be carved into a mountain on a remote island above the Arctic Circle. If the looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors are not disincentive enough for anyone hoping to breach the facility's concrete interior, the polar bears roaming outside should help.

The more than 100 nations that have collectively endorsed the vault's construction say it will be the most secure facility of its kind in the world. Given the stakes, they agree, nothing less would do.

Its precious contents? Seeds -- millions and millions of them -- from virtually every variety of food on the planet. Crop seeds are the source of human sustenance.

The "doomsday vault," as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe -- the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.

Contributions have come from about a dozen countries as well as foundations, seed companies and others.

[Excerpt of an article by Rick Weiss, The Washington Post]


Charitable Giving in U.S. Nears New High

The urgent needs created by three major natural disasters -- the tsunami in Asia, earthquake in Pakistan and hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Wilma -- drove American philanthropy to its highest level since the end of the technology boom, a new study showed.

The report released Monday by the Giving USA foundation estimates that in 2005 Americans gave $260.28 billion, a rise of 6.1 percent, which approaches the inflation-adjusted high of $260.53 billion that was reached in 2000.

About half of the overall increase of $15 billion went directly to aid victims of the disasters. The rest of the increase, meanwhile, may still be traced to the disasters since they may have raised public awareness of other charities.

Another recent report, from the Foundation Center, also shows an expected rise in corporate giving. Earlier this month, the center released a report showing an increase in philanthropy by corporate foundations, a subsector that has doubled in size from 1987 to 2004. That study predicts that nearly 2,600 corporate foundations gave $3.6 billion in 2005, a rise of 5.8 percent. The study noted that the growth rate was slower than for other types of foundations.

[The New York Times]


Seattle philanthropists pressures U.S. to help end Global Poverty

Alarmed by America's sagging image and the growing disparity in global wealth, a group of prominent Seattle business leaders is trying to educate, cajole and, if necessary, shame America into helping the poorest of the world's poor.

Although initially fearful of being dismissed as a group of West Coast idealists, the founders of the Initiative for Global Development have traversed the country for three years trying to convince skeptical company executives that they could ensure future prosperity and security by helping to provide clean water, schooling and adequate healthcare for the 1.2 billion people who exist on less than $1 a day. The group includes Bill Gates Sr., father of the Microsoft Corp. founder, and William Clapp, whose family helped found the Weyerhaeuser timber company.

"Poverty is the swamp," said Clapp, who funds micro-credit programs in Latin America. "It doesn't create all the problems, but it's the sticky goo you've got to wade through to solve anything, whether it's environmental problems or political instability."

The persistence of the Seattle-based organization has earned the support of anti-poverty experts such as economist Jeffrey D. Sachs and the attention of President Bush, who agreed to appear today at its national summit on global poverty in Washington, D.C.

The group's top priority is getting the U.S. to boost its annual spending on anti-poverty programs to $36 billion, an increase of $20 billion. Those funds, which would include government and private sector money, could go toward bed nets to prevent malaria or the elimination of school fees to boost education.

Market-driven philanthropy, also known as "social entrepreneurialism" or "compassionate capitalism," has become a growth industry in the Pacific Northwest.

[Excerpt of article by Evelyn Iritani, The Los Angeles Times]


Gates' move signals shift in philanthropy

Bill Gates' deeper focus on his foundation is likely to accelerate its impact in two areas reflecting his entrepreneurial background, battling diseases such as malaria, and on how philanthropy itself operates.

Gates is on a path that could mean his biggest impact will be on philanthropy, rather than technology.

The foundation invests in partnerships with pharmaceutical companies that otherwise might not pursue cures with little profit potential. Last year, for example, it earmarked $258 million for advanced development of a malaria vaccine to fight a disease that kills 2,000 African children every day.

That's a strategic shift from the older model of philanthropy: Foundations would wait for drugs to be available, then pay for distribution, says Gene Tempel of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. "He's just very interested in seeing problems solved where no one else has stepped before," Tempel said.

[Excerpt of an article by Jim Hopkins, USA Today]

Bill Gates, Version 2.0: Full-Time Philanthropist

Three decades after starting the most influential American technology company, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said yesterday that he plans to step down from day-to-day work at the software giant to focus his energy full time on the $29 billion foundation he started with his wife 12 years ago.

Although the transition will not take place until July 2008, the move signals a new era for the software company that has been closely associated with Gates's geeky persona and provides an opportunity, according to many in the public health community, for Gates to become one of the most important philanthropists in U.S. history.

Gates said he intends to remain chairman of Microsoft "for the rest of my life" but plans to relinquish all daily duties at the company and instead focus his legendary competitive drive on improving global health and access to technology. He and Microsoft chief executive Steven A. Ballmer yesterday laid out a two-year transition plan to begin grooming the next crop of executives to run the Redmond, Wash., firm.

[Excerpt of an article by Sara Kehaulani Goo, The Washington Post]


The Color of Disaster Assistance

[From studies revolving around Hurricane Katrina, results indicate] Americans are more willing to provide extended government assistance to white victims than to African Americans and other minorities -- particularly blacks with darker skin.

Overall, the "penalty" for being black and a Katrina victim amounted to about $1,000, according to the latest online study by The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com and Shanto Iyengar, director of the Political Communication Lab at Stanford University.

Tests indicate how much subconscious racial bias shapes attitudes toward disaster relief. People were willing to give assistance to a white victim, on average, for about 12 months. But for an African American victim, the average duration was a month shorter while the amount of aid was nearly the same, meaning that blacks would collect about $1,000 less than white victims.

Skin tone also mattered. A darker-skinned black received less over a shorter period of time than a light-skinned white, all other factors being equal. Content of the articles also made a difference: Participants were the least generous after reading one article on looting.

"These results suggest that news media coverage of natural disasters can shape the audience's response," Iyengar said. "Framing the disaster in ways that evoke racial stereotypes can make people less supportive of large-scale relief efforts. News reports about flooding evoke one set of apparently positive images in the reader's mind; reports about lawlessness evoke quite another."

[Excerpt of editorial by Richard Morin, Washington Post]


Boosting the US image through humanitarian efforts

The recent earthquake is not the first time the US has offered an outstretched hand to Indonesia in its time of need. After a giant tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, some 15,000 American servicemen took part, flying hundreds of helicopter missions to deliver food, water, and medical aid to the victims. The reaction in Indonesia to the visible American effort was very positive. A poll by the respected Indonesian Survey Institute found a threefold increase in the favorable view of the United States, from a lowly 15 percent rocketed to 44 percent.

There was a similar rise of approval for the US in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake there. The US flew more than 4,000 sorties with Chinook helicopters delivering more than 11,000 tons of relief supplies. Nearly 32,000 patients received medical attention. A subsequent poll by the nonprofit Terror Free Tomorrow organization showed that, as a result of the relief operation, favorable opinion of the US in Pakistan jumped from 23 percent in 2005 to more than 46 percent by the end of that year.

The US has a long history of aiding countries around the world after catastrophic events. This is just as it should be. But when the US is engaged in a critical war of words with terrorists and would-be terrorists in the Islamic world, such no-strings humanitarian aid to Muslim countries plays a role in generating a more positive image of Americans and their government.

[Excerpts of Opinion column by John Hughes, Christian Science Monitor]


Two different US Marine stories

The headlines last week reported that US Marines had apparently gone on a murderous rampage months earlier in Iraq, killing as many as 24 civilians, including women and children.

Also in the news last week, but generally lower profile, was the relief effort by US Marines and US personnel, along with other international donors, on Indonesia's big island of Java, which was hit by a devastating earthquake.

Marine cargo planes flew a mobile field hospital into the city of Yogyakarta, closest to the quake area. Other marines started distributing emergency supplies to the needy. The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, which has extensive medical facilities, was routed to the area.

The two contrasting stories, one of senseless murder in Iraq, and the other of humanitarian aid to save life in Indonesia, underline for Americans both the agonies and the triumphs of being the most powerful nation in the world with sweeping international responsibilities.

[Excerpts of Opinion column by John Hughes, Christian Science Monitor]


Sad state of children of the developing world

Of the 1.9 billion children in the developing world, there are:
640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)

Worldwide, 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5.

This is the equivalent of all the children in France, Germany, Greece and Italy combined.


Why International Aid is needed

Number of children in the world
2.2 billion

Number in poverty
1 billion

Every second child lives in poverty.


Global priorities in spending

Consider these global priorities in spending:

Basic education for everyone in the world - $6 Billion
Spent on Cosmetics in the United States- $8 Billion

Read rest of article


U.N. to Streamline Disaster Relief

The United Nations announced the creation of a $500 million fund that will be used to respond to disasters sooner, saving lives and lowering the cost of providing relief.

The new pool of money, known as the Central Emergency Response Fund, has already attracted $256 million in pledges from governments ranging from Britain, which has promised $70 million, to Kazakhstan and Thailand, which are putting in $25,000 and $10,000, respectively. In the future, it will accept donations from corporations and eventually individuals.

Canada has pledged $17.24 million, the United States $10 million and the Netherlands surprised United Nations officials by doubling its original $11.9 million pledge.

The money will be made available to United Nations agencies responding to food, medical and other emergency needs following a disaster.

[Excerpt of an article by Stephanie Strom, The New York Times]


Fund-raising for Indonesia Relief lags behind

CNN reports that "The United Nations says $100 million is urgently needed to help survivors of Indonesia earthquake, as the injured and bereaved marked the Islamic day of prayer amid the rubble of their homes."

The international relief effort to help the victims of Saturday's earth quake in Indonesia got off to an unusually fast start, but fundraising is now progressing slowly.

Thankfully, reports The New York Times, many nonprofit groups already had staff and supplies in Indonesia from the tsunami that struck in the final days of 2004. So they merely had to shift those resources to Yogyakarta, the site of the earthquake.

Also, the Indonesian government and military, as well as several relief groups, had been preparing for the potential eruption of Mount Merapi when the earthquake hit and so were able to use that advance planning to address a different emergency, relief workers said.


Indonesian villagers plead for food, death toll rises

Survivors searched for scraps of tin and other materials to rebuild destroyed homes. Others blocked traffic to plead for money or placed flower pots and trash cans on streets to slow traffic and beg for donations.

Officials in remote corners of hardest-hit Bantul district reported 388 additional deaths after phone lines were restored and roads and bridges were repaired. In the village of Topriaten, survivors said they had only received a single bag of rice from local authorities for 140 people. Only a few houses survived the quake, but no tents had arrived, forcing scores of villagers to live beneath makeshift tarps.

Many are living under plastic sheets near their former homes, in rice fields or on roadsides, their misery compounded by days of intermittent rain and blazing sun. Many still wore the clothes they had on when the quake struck.

Several foreign militaries have contributed to the relief effort, with Japan announcing Thursday it was dispatching 140 troops to provide medical assistance, supplies and other humanitarian support.

Dozens of U.S. Marines were providing care at a portable field hospital on a soccer field in the town of Sewon, the latest of several American relief missions in predominantly Muslim nations.
One U.S. Marine said the current relief effort could serve as a cultural bridge. "When you help people, you become friends," said 1st Lt. Eric Tausch, from a U.S. Marine division based in Okinawa, Japan.