Bill Gates in landmark meeting with UK Parliamentarians on the international fight against global poverty

bill_gatesHelping farmers who own small farms and are struggling to feed their family, farmers who face tougher weather conditions over time because of climate changehelping them with seeds [and] funding the extension services is actually one of the most pro-market things you can do allowing them to have cash crops, allowing them to be educated so that they understands about

Bill Gates, Co-Trustee The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Yesterday

In what has been hailed as a landmark meeting – Bill Gates*, co-trustee of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, yesterday met with UK Parliamentarians to discuss the critical issue of global food security.

During the private meeting with the APPG Agriculture and Food for Development Mr. Gates commended the UK for its continued global leadership in the field of International Development but also highlighted the not insignificant challenges which still lay ahead.

He stated: I welcome the UKs leadership on international development and its commitment to maintaining the nations promise to spend 0.7% of its Gross National Income on official development assistance, despite significant challenges to the British economy. I urge other donor nations, particularly those in the G8, to follow its lead.

It is in this context that APPG Co-chair Lord Cameron of Dillington** called on policy makers to act now and help the poorest people help themselves out of chronic hunger. He commented With just five years left of the MDGs and with this Parliament set to sit until 2015, this Parliament truly is the Parliament of the MDGs we must act now or face the unthinkable consequences of losing another generation to extreme poverty and chronic hunger

The private meeting with the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development took place in advance of a wider address to Parliamentarians in which Mr. Gates stated: Aid over the last 50 years has achieved some phenomenal thingsWe wouldnt be spending the money if it wasnt something that I didnt think was catalytic. We get smarter all the time, but the aid were spending really makes a huge difference.

Sharing the platform with Mr. Gates, Rt. Hon Alan Duncan***, Minister of State for International Development echoed these sentiments by stating “We must do all we can to make the Millennium Development Goal Summit in September a renewal of all countries’ commitments to the MDGs a reality.

Alan Duncan concluded: “Britain is leading the way – and should be proud that it is the first and only country in the world to commit to spending 0.7% of its income on aid from 2013.”

With just 5-years to go until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals and a special Summit convened in September by the UN General Assembly to track progress Mr. Gates outlined why 2010 must be a year of decisive action in terms of International Development, commenting In the face of such challenging economic times, we must be even smarter about how resources are used and maintain our commitments to the worlds poor.

Indeed great progress has already been made in areas such as reducing the proportion of people in chronic poverty by half, which is within reach for the world as a whole and; increasing access to clean water, with one point six billion people having gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, other areas are significantly off-track.

Yet despite this with just 5 years until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many MDGs are off track and some are even moving in the wrong direction.

More people suffer from chronic hunger today than at any other time in history. MDG 1, to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, is so far off track that it is now moving in the wrong direction. To achieve MDG 1 – 115 million people must be lifted out of chronic hunger each and every year up until 2015 and this would still only be half of the global problem. It is also estimated that the cost of this under-nutrition to the developing world is estimated to be some $20 30 billion per year.

It is in this context that Harriet Lamb****, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation called for a new partnership in International Development, stating: Aid is important but there are also millions of entrepreneurs in developing countries looking for the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty. Instead of business as usual, Fairtrade has shown how business unusual can create a win-win – strengthening producer organisations and sustainable supply chains so that these farmers and entrepreneurs can play a role in transforming their own communities. There is a real opportunity, as the Gates Foundation shows, for the private sector to step up to the plate, and build new kinds of partnership for development.

Aaron Oxley, Executive Director for RESULTS-UK, echoed these sentiments calling on policy makers to act now and help the poorest people help themselves out of poverty. He commented: Experience shows us the poor are often poor because they are excluded from opportunities and if we can help create the conditions for those opportunities suffering is averted and development ensues

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Rt. Hon Douglas Alexander noted: It is a rare privilege to sit on a panel with somebody who has changed the world once, and I think we are in the presence today of somebody who has changed the world twice first with his work in Microsoft and now with the extraordinary work that he and Melinda are taking forward in the Gates Foundation

The aim of the meetings was to highlight the living proof of International Development and the crucial difference that it makes to the lives of millions of people worldwide. The meeting with Bill Gates occurs some six months after the APPG published the results of its first inquiry into global food security entitled Why No Thought for Food?

The report highlighted the existing critical need of the 500 million smallholder farmers who face a daily struggle to meet the needs of the 2 billion people who are dependent upon them, that is, nearly one-third of humanity; whilst also drawing attention to the steep projected population rises in some parts of the world such as Africa, whose population is set to increase at a rate of 6 million people per month and almost double from 1 billion to 2 billion by 2036. The APPG concluded that as a result of rising food prices at home and abroad, a new level of public awareness had been created which in turn created a unique opportunity for the UK to seize the agenda in 2010.

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