Melinda Gates says philanthropy, government work best united

NEW YORK (AP) — Philanthropy is in a unique position to speed global change, but government action is necessary to implement it, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Wednesday.

“Philanthropy can often take risks,” said Gates, speaking at the Bloomberg Equality Summit. “They can try innovations that sometimes work and sometimes fail. They can look for new solutions. They can help us collect the data. But ultimately, it’s always up to government to scale up these innovations to create a change.”

Gates, whose foundation has donated more than $2 billion to fight the spread of COVID-19, said the development of the coronavirus vaccines is a prime example of how philanthropy and government policies can work together.

“Ultimately, it’s billions of dollars from the government that will pull that through and purchase it for Americans and people in low-income countries,” she said. “It’s always up to government, but I think philanthropy or private sector and civil society can always help lead the way.”

Though her foundation has donated billions toward reforms for education and the environment, Gates said government has the power to make permanent change. She said she found discussing those issues with the Trump administration “incredibly frustrating,” but appreciates the shift in policy from the Biden administration.

“I am very happy to see a new administration who’s not only taking the threat (of climate change) seriously, but also taking very bold and concrete actions,” she said. “That’s what we should expect as Americans.”

Gates also said she hopes that the Biden administration will establish an innovation fund dedicated to child care.

“We have a caregiving crisis and yet there are great ideas out there,” she said. “Those kinds of ideas need to be funded and come forward so that we can come up with new innovations in society when it comes to women and how much they’ve backslid in the pandemic.”

Gates also noted the pandemic has shown how important it is to fight misinformation.

“It’s incredibly disheartening because honestly it causes death,” she said. “People not doing the right thing, not getting their mom or their elderly father vaccinated, we will lose more people. We are losing more people.”

The Bloomberg Equality Summit, an annual gathering dedicated to discussing ways to create a more just business climate, also included discussions with Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Al Kelly, Visa chairman and CEO.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced at the summit Wednesday that the company established a new domestic violence policy. Facebook will now offer family members of domestic violence victims up to 20 days of paid leave.

“A third of women will experience violence or sexual assault in their lives,” Sandberg said. “It’s a horrific number and that’s before coronavirus where we know that domestic violence is spiking …. I think people really don’t understand how universal this is.”

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