Friday, 26 June 2015

Bill Gates Q&A at Facebook London

On Monday I went to Facebook London with other ONE Youth Ambassadors for a live Q&A with Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft and the Gates Foundation and one of the world's wealthiest people) organised by Global Citizen. Questions were selected prior to the Q&A from people across the world through Global Citizen's website and Facebook page. He was asked about his work to end poverty in the next 15 years and how we can end extreme poverty, improve health and education opportunities, reduce the impact of climate change and develop gender equality. You can see the video here.














The Q&A was introduced by Nicola Mendelsohn, the leader of Facebook in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It was hosted by Radio 1 DJ Greg James who said Bill was one of the most extraordinary men on the planet. I think Bill's quiet response and his limited interest in discussing his personal life showed how humble he is. Bill has given away over $38 billion, lots of which has contributed towards preventable disease reduction.

Bill discussed the UK's role in development through Comic Relief and Red Nose day. He said that if every country matched the UK's effort, resources for women's education would double. He also believes empowering and educating women can be passed through generations and start to make change. Bill mentioned the importance of raising awareness that issues of inequality still exist and emphasised the power of campaigning, which he exemplified with the increase of the UK's aid budget. He said using our voices is very important, particularly through social media, and especially if we struggle to financially support causes. He said it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. We can measure levels of participation, but ultimately it is most important to measure the success of campaigns through a decrease in poverty. After being asked what people can do to get involved, Bill suggested choosing an organisation where you can participate in campaigns and go on trips and mentioned ONE. We were very happy about this! Due to the nature of the Q&A located in Facebook's office and organised by Global Citizen, both organisations seemed to be promoted. The Facebook office was impressive in itself with the décor and snacks that everybody could help themselves to!

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were also brought up, which are a proposed set of targets relating to future international development. They are to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) once they expire at the end of 2015. The SDGs will be discussed during the Financing for Development conference in July, which ONE is actively encouraging David Cameron to attend, as well as the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in September. Bill believes there are three methods of financing development: foreign aid, domestic resources and private investment.

Whilst responding to question regarding the impact of climate change on poor countries through extreme weather, Bill seemed pleased to see increased awareness of the issue. He suggested the reformation of energy and transport systems to reduce greenhouse gases in addition to increased investment in adaptation to climate change.

One of the main focuses of Bill's work is preventable disease. He discussed malaria and believes it can be eradicated between 2030 and 2040, which he considers essential to ending poverty. He addressed disease eradication, mentioning that in 1980 smallpox became the only disease that has been eradicated in human history. He thinks that polio will be the next disease to be eradicated as the only current cases present are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore these cases may be eradicated by 2016 and after waiting 3 years to ensure all cases have been eradicated; it may become the second disease to ever be eradicated in 2019.

Overall the experience was very inspiring and gave me hope that philanthropy can exist in excessively wealthy people.




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