Baby Milk Action’s readers will be aware of our concerns about the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) – both of which are part funded by the foundation set up by the software giant, Bill Gates.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now a significant player in development programmes and a major funder of WHO. But it is far from a passive donor, with an assured place on the governing structures of many global health partnerships it is in a key position to influence health and research agendas and public health priorities.[i]
As Jamie Love, the director of Knowledge Ecology International, says “…while few would say his philanthropy is too much of a good thing, there are clearly significant consequences and indeed also risks in such an enormous concentration of power. The fairly rapid demise of public sector policy-making in key areas of public health, and the reliance upon the Gates family and its staff, creates an impoverished debate over public health priorities, and leads to unchallenged policy changes in others.” [ii]
In relation to infant and young child health, the BMGF’s emphasis on technological solutions, new medical technologies and the public private partnership model is especially problematic, and can be seen in tendency of GAIN and SUN to focus on product solutions to hunger.
The Foundation’s funding of education and media outlets such as the BBC, National Public Radio and the Guardian is also of concern, given the importance corporations place on influencing the information environment and ‘issues framing’. [iii]
This is a question “not only of ‘policy’ capture but of capturing a wide range of arenas of debate and decision making either because these are seen as intrinsically important or because they are useful for activities in other arenas.” [iv]
The Guardian now runs discussion pages and debates sponsored by a range or corporations and foundations. In June 2013 – just before the G8 meeting in London, the Guardian ran a webinar entitled The role of business in scaling up nutrition sponsored by DSM, the world’s largest manufacturer of ingredients in formulas.[v] Fokko Wientjes, director of the DSM-WFP partnership, said “surely it’s a good thing to have DSM involved in the debate seeing as they are responsible, as a manufacturer of nutritional supplements, for ensuring the children consuming their products get the required nutrients. We’ll never get anywhere if the organisations who make these products and have the financial clout to make a difference are locked out of these discussions – they have a vested interest in making products that address the issue as it will help them increase their profits.”
[i] The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s grant-making programme for global health, The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9675, Pages 1645 – 1653, 9 May 2009 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60571-7/fulltext
[ii] Microsoft, Gates Foundation Timeline, http://keionline.org/microsoft-timeline
[iv] Corporate strategy, corporate capture: Food and alcohol industry lobbying and public health, David Miller and Claire Harkins, 2010 30: 564 Critical Social Policy University of Strathclyde, http://csp.sagepub.com/content/30/4/564 [v] The role of business in scaling up nutrition – live discussion Panel of experts. 6 June, 2013 to discuss how business can help address the impacts of undernutrition http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/business-scaling-up-nutrition-live-discussion