On Wednesday 24th June, the coalition of International Development APPGs hosted Bill Gates for an event in the Speaker’s House supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and BOND. The event was well attended by both MPs and Peers and raised awareness of the role International Development APPGs have in parliament and the importance of parliamentarians in ensuring the Sustainable Development Goals are monitored and implemented.
Jeremy Lefroy MP, a Vice Chair of the Africa APPG and champion of many other International Development APPGs including Malaria and Agriculture, introduced Bill Gates. Bill Gates opened by thanking the UK government for their generosity and praised the APPGs for their role in keeping parliamentarians engaged in development debate and urged members to get involved.
His speech focussed on health issues, particularly the UK’s role as second biggest funder of Global Fund after US and highlighted some key health achievements that have been made possible through increased funding. He was optimistic that Malaria (of which the death rate down is down by 50%) could be eradicated by 2040 if funding levels are maintained. In addition he highlighted that it had been nine months since last known case of polio in Africa and believes that the disease could be eradicated by 2019.
Mr Gates then went on to touch on other issues including malnutrition and contraception and praised the role of women’s groups across Africa in achieving better access to contraception as well as gains made in stopping FGM in their communities. In addition, he highlighted the importance of creating functioning tax collection systems to increase domestic resource collection and allocation to public services.
The Q&A with parliamentarians followed. Lord McConnell, a Vice Chair of the Africa APPG, raised the importance of monitoring and the role of parliamentarians, as well as the issues over collecting reliable data and the need for transparency. In his response, Bill emphasised that making the flow of domestic resources less opaque would be vital in measuring progress on the SDGs.
Lord Chidgey, Co-Chair from the House of Lords for the Africa APPG, spoke about the need for healthcare provision in the most remote areas that are hardest to reach. Bill agreed, saying primary healthcare is needed first and that it is amazing how much can be achieved in such communities with the most basic of training and supplies.
Gavin Shuker MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, asked how the Gates Foundation views climate change and COP21. Bill responded that climate change was an issue but was sceptical about what COP21 could realistically achieve. He said the renewables systems are at present too expensive for developing countries and called for more investment in research and development for innovative and affordable solutions if developing countries are to reduce their carbon emissions.
Baroness Butler-Sloss expressed concern that corruption is becoming an increasing disincentive for donors, and Lord Cameron raised the need to invest more in ICT systems for farming.
Finally, Lord Purvis the Peer that carried the ‘0.7%’ International Development Bill through the House of Lords, asked how the 0.7% goal could be an integral part of the SDG process. Bill congratulated the UK once again and said it is the clear leader in this internationally and must continue to make the arguments for it. He called for other countries to boost their commitments, pointing out that the USA is only 0.2% and Germany 0.4%. He closed by suggesting that more effort should be made to encourage the emerging ‘BRICS’ economies to become part of the donor debate.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, thanked Bill Gates for his contributions and closed the meeting.