Bill Gates: UK aid saves lives and keeps Britain safe

On Wednesday Bill Gates is delivering a speech at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies on aid, security and broader British interests.

Here the American business magnate and philanthropist writes for ITV News on why aid is so important.

If we base our worldview on what we see in the headlines and on the news, it’s easy to conclude that things are getting worse.

But a headline is not the same thing as a trendline.

Viewed through the lens of data, our world is far better today than it has been for most of humanity.

As recently as 1950, three quarters of the world was still living in extreme poverty.

Today, that number is down to less than 10%.

In 1990, one in 10 children died before age five, almost entirely of preventable causes. Today, that number is lower than one in 20. In the next fifteen years, it will be one in 40.

Foreign aid has been critical to this progress. It has ensured that as humanity makes these leaps, the benefits extend to everyone.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates Credit: PA

Investing in the health and well being of people in a poor country also is an investment in the health and security of British citizens at home.

For example, aid reduces the threat of deadly pandemic diseases that could spread as quickly across Western Europe as Ebola did in West Africa three years ago.

Foreign aid also helps poor countries become self-sufficient. Take child health.

When people no longer have to worry if their children will survive into adulthood, they decide to have fewer children. As family size drops, it gets easier for countries to feed, educate, and provide opportunity for their people.

Just as the Marshall Plan helped Europeans rebuild the continent themselves after World War II, targeted aid today helps countries lift themselves out of poverty and chart their own future.

Melinda Gates on a 2011 trip to Tanzania Credit: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

As someone who puts $5 billion a year toward development aid, I have a strong interest in making sure that money is well spent.

The UK’s Department for International Development is widely recognised as one of the most effective, efficient, and innovative aid agencies in the world.

That is why I have chosen to invest our foundation’s resources - over and over again - working alongside DfID.

The prime minister made clear in her January visit to my country, and more recently in a speech in Scotland, that she sees Britain’s 0.7% aid commitment as a critical pillar of its foreign policy.

It is deeply reassuring to know that as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, it will not step back from the world.

Bill and Melinda learning about malaria prevention in Tanzania in 2011 Credit: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

As the prime minister said recently, British aid speaks strongly to the values that have long defined Britain as a beacon of hope and optimism—especially for the most vulnerable.

This kind of leadership, from members of all parties, is what will assure a more secure and prosperous future for Britain and for the world.

  • The views of Bill Gates do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.