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Bill and Melinda Gates urge Trump to respect people and to not cut foreign aid

bill and melinda gates
Bill and Melinda Gates discussed the importance of foreign aid and the state of US politics. Photograph: Lou Rocco/Getty Images

Donald Trump should treat people – especially women – with more respect and continue investments in poorer countries for the sake of global security, Bill and Melinda Gates said on Tuesday.

Melinda Gates said: “I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets.”

And Bill Gates warned that the Trump administration’s proposed budget could directly lead to millions of preventable deaths around the globe, because of vast cuts to foreign aid and development funds.

At an event with his wife to mark their foundation’s annual philanthropic letter, he said: “US generosity … if that goes away, even a 10% cut would mean 5 million deaths over the next decade.”

The Trump administration, as it did last year, has proposed billions of dollars in cuts to foreign aid, which makes up less than 1% of US spending. Last year, lawmakers in Congress from both parties mostly ignored the request, and Gates said he hoped they would again this year too.

In a separate interview, Melinda Gates criticized Trump’s habit of using Twitter to attack women and minority groups.

“Those kinds of comments just don’t belong in the public discourse,” she told the Associated Press. She added that while some of Trump’s comments about women have troubled her, his rejection of the feminist label has not.

“Some men have trouble and some women, quite frankly, have trouble embracing that term and what it means, so that honestly doesn’t bother me. It’s more the specific comments he’s made over and over again about specific people or minorities or women that just do not reflect the values I see across the United States,” she said.

In the Gates Foundation letter, the couple said: “Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country’s spirit.”

Bill Gates called on Trump not to cut aid to the developing world. He said: “To have Africa be stable, to have health systems that stop pandemics, and to reduce the chance of our army having to go fight somewhere and lose lives: these investments, even in that sort of ‘America first’ mindset, are still very, very wise.”

The Gates Foundation letter began as an open letter from Bill and Melinda Gates to their largest benefactor, the investment guru Warren Buffett, whose 2006 gift of $30bn allowed the organization to expand to its current size. Since then, the letter has become more of an informal annual report outlining recent research findings in relation to world development and future priorities. The Gateses’ liberal outlook is generally focused on the global alleviation of poverty and disease.

Previous letters have zeroed in on specific interventions, usually the result of scientific or technological breakthroughs, and how they can be used to assuage various entrenched societal problems. In 2015, for example, the letter looked at how mobile banking could change money management in the developing world, and how agricultural innovations could increase crop yield in poor countries forced to spend billions on importing food. 

For the 2018 missive, the couple decided to use a question and answer format, addressing what they say are some of the most common queries people have about the foundation – which is the world’s largest and is regarded as influential internationally. Melinda Gates called them “10 tough questions” and welcomed those questioning the foundation’s activities. Jamiles Lartey

Melinda Gates also expressed dismay at the administration’s budget “zeroing out” funds for contraception.

“You’re leaving women in destitute poverty if you don’t fund contraceptives,” she said. The budget move follows Trump’s executive order instituting a “gag rule” on US-funded international NGOs providing abortion services.

The Gates foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in the world, with an endowment of more than $40bn. For the past 10 years, Bill and Melinda Gates have released an annual letter outlining the state of their work and focus areas for the following year.

Despite concern about the effects of cuts to US aid, the pair remained optimistic. “The world is getting better by almost every objective measure,” Bill Gates said, citing the example of child mortality, the foundation’s top priority in recent years.“When we got going, about 12 million kids were dying a year under the age of five. Now, because of vaccines and things that we’ve done with partners, that number is under 5 million.”

This article titled "Bill and Melinda Gates urge Trump to respect people and to not cut foreign aid" was written by Jamiles Lartey in New York and agencies, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13 February 2018 10.32pm

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