Warren Buffett just donated $3.4 billion to five charitable foundations. The massive philanthropic effort is a part of Buffett’s lifetime pledge to divest part of his stock in Berkshire Hathaway each year.
Buffett, 87, announced the pledge in 2006. His donations — which total about $31 billion to date — go to five organizations including the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for his wife and run by his children, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 2010, Buffett partnered with Gates to create the Giving Pledge, a public commitment through which billionaires commit to donating half of their wealth to philanthropic causes of their choice. As of May 2018, there are 183 pledgers from 22 countries. The list includes the cofounders of Airbnb, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
Buffett is the world’s third-wealthiest person with a net worth of about $83 billion, trailing only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Gates. On Monday, it was announced that Bezos is the richest person in “modern history.” His worth recently hit $150 billion. Bezos has yet to sign onto Gates’s and Buffett’s pledge.
“I’m not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when 6 billion others have much poorer hands than we do in life,” Buffett famously said in 2006.
He updated his pledge in 2010, writing: “More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.”
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released a study that estimates charitable giving will decline by more than $17 billion in 2018 due to last year’s overhaul of the tax code by the Trump administration.
According to The Hill, “AEI researchers estimated that of the projected $17.2 billion decline in giving, $14.2 billion of the reduction will be due to the bigger standard deduction and $3 billion will be due to other provisions in the tax law.
[Council on Foundations]
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it’s clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework’s 2030 targets.
It’s not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made.
Though it has received considerably less funding than the other two, it’s interesting to note that Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality) ranks third — preliminary analysis hints at a promising scenario for gender equality-related funding — while Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all) is close behind in the fourth spot. Indeed, a deep dive into Goal 16-related funding reveals that a lot of the grants made in support of efforts in this area overlap with Goal 5, gender equality, which suggests to us that peace and justice are strongly correlated with gender equality and that funders are well aware of the linkage.
Foundation Center data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched. In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it’s too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable.
[Philanthropy News Digest]
Zambia’s multipronged effort against malaria is making headway, at least in some parts of the country. In Eastern Province, parasite prevalence among small children is down almost by half, to 12 percent. Efforts in Southern Province have been even more successful –prevalence is now below one percent. The national death rate declined by around 80 percent from 2010 to 2017. However, the results have been uneven. Many parts of the country have seen increases in prevalence, with some areas as high as 32 percent.
A big chunk of the funding for Zambia’s anti-malaria programming comes from the United States. Begun under former president George W. Bush, the fight against malaria is often cited as one of the US government’s most successful global health campaigns. But that could all change with President Donald Trump’s threat to cut foreign assistance around the globe.
The United States is such a massive player in global health, accounting for more than one third of total anti-malaria funding expenditures worldwide, that even relatively minor cuts would have a significant impact. The current global budget for malaria is less than half of what is needed to meet global malaria targets of reducing malaria by 40 percent by 2020, according to the World Health Organization.
Malaria experts warn that a reduction in that effort would be more than a minor setback: if malaria has been suppressed in a region and then resurges, the results can be devastating since natural immunities will be lowered and death and disability can rise sharply.
Globally, the trend is worrying. A recent WHO assessment found that progress around the world had stalled for the first time in a decade.
The European Union and its Member States continue to be the world’s leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with an overall amount of €75.7 billion ($93.7 billion) in 2017, confirm the newly released figures by OECD.
The EU collective constituted 57% of Official Development Assistance globally in 2017.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “The EU and its Member States continue to provide over half of the total Official Development Assistance globally, investing in people, stronger institutions and societies.”
“However, I am strongly concerned about the decrease of EU collective ODA and of development assistance worldwide. Achieving sustainable development requires a persistent collective effort. We know we need to do more. As the world’s leading ODA provider the EU must show leadership and responsibility.”
The EU and its Members States have been consistently in the lead of global efforts on development financing.
This Sustainable Development Goal Tracker is a public tool to follow the progress of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015, found here.
The U.N. affirmed 2030 as the deadline for the international community to achieve significant growth toward these goals:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
It’s been 18 years since Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they intended to give away their fortune—now an estimated $91 billion—to better the planet, along with the lives of its most vulnerable inhabitants. Since then, they’ve hired over 1,400 employees and spent $40.3 billion to tackle some of the hardest-to-solve problems—like healthcare, poverty and education—in both developing countries and here at home.
“The human condition, by all key measures, has improved dramatically,” says Bill. “People are living longer and less children are dying; the death rate for children under five has been cut in half over the last 15 years.” Adds Melinda: “Last week I was in West Africa and Kenya. The amount of entrepreneurism and people lifting themselves up is palpable. The world is changing for the better and we want people to know that.”
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Bill: Global health is our biggest area, and it’s going well. With any luck we’ll have the last polio case this year.
Melinda: There are literally millions of children alive because of the vaccines that we’ve been involved with.
Bill: And there are things that are much longer term, like getting an HIV vaccine done, which unfortunately will probably take another decade. Eradicating malaria will probably be a 20-year quest.
Q: You often bring your kids on your humanitarian trips to the Third World. What have they learned?
Melinda: All three of our kids have spent a lot of time in the developing world, not just on nice safaris but sometimes living with these families. So it’s become central to our lives and, I’d say, has changed us all for the better. I think it will probably affect the path they’re each on in life. It certainly grounds us in what’s important.
The humanitarian community presently faces a mammoth funding shortage for the problems it already faces, let alone being able to mitigate against new disasters, said Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the crowd gathered at Davos. “We are confronted in 2018 with a big gap between needs of people and the capacity of the international system as a whole to respond,” he said.
“Historically, migration has a positive force in societies and economies around the world,” said William Swing, the director general of the International Organization of Migration. “We need to recognize that migration is not an issue to be ‘solved.’ It is a human reality that we need to manage, humanely and responsibly.”
But that’s simply not happening in most Western countries. “People look to their leadership, and there just isn’t a lot of political courage and leadership on the issue of migration right now,” Swing said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lamented the disillusionment seeping into the West. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves,” he said. “It feels like the opposite of globalization is happening. … Everyone is talking about an interconnected world, but we will have to accept the fact that globalization is slowly losing its luster,” Modi said. “The solution to this worrisome situation against globalization is not isolation. The solution is in understanding and accepting change.”
Valter Sanches, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, which represents about 50 million workers in more than 140 countries, said that the chasm between rich and poor was only growing wider. And the politics of the moment don’t seem capable of breaching the gap.
If you’re feeling despair about the fate of humanity in the 21st century, you might want to reconsider. Among other things, it has been an incredible year for global health:
- This year, the World Health Organization unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective enough to end cholera, one of humanity’s greatest ever killers. New York Times
- Cancer deaths have dropped by 25% in the United States since 1991, saving more than 2 million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39%, saving the lives of 322,600 women. Time
- Zika all but disappeared in 2017. Cases plummeted in Latin America and the Caribbean, and most people in those places are now immune. Science Mag
- A new report showed that the world’s assault on tropical diseases is working. A massive, five year international effort has saved millions of lives, and countries are now signing up for more. STAT
- Soft drink sales in the United States dropped for the 12th year in a row, thanks to consumer education and new sugar taxes aimed at stemming obesity and diabetes. Reuters
- Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, was eliminated as a public health problem in Oman and Morocco, and Mexico became the first country in the Americas to eliminate it. NBC
- Meet Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin, two eye doctors responsible for helping restore sight to 4 million people in two dozen countries, including North Korea and Ethiopia. CBS
- Premature deaths for the world’s four biggest noncommunicable diseases — cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory — have declined by 16% since 2000. World Bank
- Global abortion rates have fallen from around 40 procedures per 1,000 women in the early 1990s, to 35 procedures per 1,000 women today. In the United States, abortion rates have reached their lowest level since 1973. Vox
- In July, UNAIDS, revealed that for the first time in history, half of all people on the planet with HIV are now getting treatment, and that AIDS deaths have dropped by half since 2005. Science Mag
- There were only 26 cases of Guinea worm in 2017, down from 3.5 million cases in 21 countries in Africa and Asia in 1986. Devex
- The United Kingdom announced a 20% fall in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades, meaning 40,000 fewer people are being affected every year. iNews
- Thanks to better access to clean water and sanitation, the number of children around the world who are dying from diarrhoea has fallen by a third since 2005. BBC
- Leprosy is now easily treatable. The number of worldwide cases has dropped by 97% since 1985, and a new plan has set 2020 as the target for the end of the disease. New York Times
- In October, new research from the Center for Disease Control revealed that between 2000 and 2016, the measles vaccine saved 20.4 million lives.
- And on the 17th November, the WHO said that global deaths from tuberculosis have fallen by 37% since 2000, saving an estimated 53 million lives.
[Read full Quartz article for more good news]