One of the most influential women in the world and the cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a message for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week: Do not cut foreign aid.
Melinda Gates, who today was named to TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list, is spending the week in the US capitol explaining to lawmakers why foreign aid from the US to other countries is one of the most vital parts of the federal budget.
President Donald Trump has proposed slashing foreign aid to the other countries for next year’s budget. Congress will ultimately decide whether to enact Trump’s proposals, and Gates is hoping she can convince lawmakers to reject the cuts.
“One of the first lessons we learned when we started our foundation was a humbling one: Our resources are only a drop in the bucket compared with the needs around the world, and only a small percentage of what governments spend each year to help meet those needs,” Gates wrote in an op-ed on CNN.com.
She said that much of her time as head of her foundation is spent working with government officials to try and get more money devoted to fighting poverty, disease, and inequality.
“[That] is why I am deeply concerned about the White House announcement that its budget proposal includes cuts to US foreign aid that would threaten the very progress so many are working so hard to achieve,” she writes.
Gates cites all of the achievements that foreign aid has sparked in recent years: in one generation, foreign aid has helped curb polio and HIV/AIDS epidemics (nearly eradicating polio), helping save 122 million children’s lives; cut extreme poverty in half; stabilize foreign governments; contain the Ebola epidemic; and created new markets for US goods.
In fact, 11 of the top 15 markets for US goods are former foreign recipients, she said.
In essence, foreign aid helps lift other countries up out of poverty so they can be better partners to the US in the future.
“Far from locking countries in cycles of dependency, smart aid investments actually help countries unlock virtuous cycles of growth,” she said.
Before Gates helped launch the foundation with her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, she also had an accomplished career inside Microsoft, launching some of the company’s best-known products. And she’s used that professional achievement to stress how important education and careers are for women, along with the choice about when and how to raise families.
“Another US investment that yields enormous returns for the global economy is contraceptives. When women have access to the tools they need to plan and space their pregnancies, the results are transformative for societies,” she writes in her op-ed.
When women can plan their families, they’re able to better provide health care, nutrition, and education to their children, which improve the potential of each child to get our poverty, she said.
“Contraceptives are simply one of the best antipoverty initiatives the world has ever seen,” she wrote.
Cutting aid to foreign countries will have a slew of negative consequences for the US and the world, she said, including increasing instability and poverty that could lead to extremism and more unnecessary deaths.
“For all these reasons, I will spend my time in D.C. this week making the case that if we care about keeping America healthy, safe and prosperous, then we must prioritize foreign aid,” she said. “The cost of these cuts is far too great for our country — or our conscience — to bear.”
Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.