Voice

Is Bill Gates monopolizing development?

David Rieff is worried that the Gates Foundation is having an outsized influence on how governments, international organizations, and publics think about development challenges:

[A]mericans, like people everywhere in the rich world to a greater or lesser degree, are in love with quick fixes. As one relief officially put it to me recently, it is as if the rescue of the Chilean miners were a model for how we could ensure food security in sub-Saharan Africa or ensure livelihoods in Haiti. That is, the essence of what we have to do is simply find the right cutting-edge technologies and deploy sufficient money and bureaucratic energies to apply them; in short, that there is a technological fix on offer somewhere near, and that we are on the brink of uncovering it. It is this worldview that is at the heart of the approach both to global health and agricultural development that has been championed, and to an important degree underwritten, by the Gates Foundation, and which now informs the thinking of the major Western donor governments and of the United Nations system.

In Rieff's view, the Gates Foundation promotes a fundamentally ahistorical and apolitical view of development and, in so doing, raises expectations about what resources and technical fixes can achieve to unsustainable levels. I'm curious about his claim that the Gates view has managed to thoroughly infiltrate the U.N. system. In other contexts, Rieff has been a savage and eloquent critic of the U.N.'s institutional worldview, which begs the question of whether the Gates philosophy is displacing anything Rieff considers valuable. 

The Multilateralist

G-20 pledge devalued

The ink is only now drying on the G-20 finance-ministers' communique promising to avoid competitive devaluation and to control exchange rate volatility. But this Bloomberg story suggests that the markets have already written off the group's pledges. 

Traders are losing confidence in Group of 20 finance officials’ pledge to avoid foreign-exchange manipulation, less than a week after the leaders vowed to stop devaluing currencies to prop up their economies.

Volatility among Group of Seven currencies rose to the highest level in four months since the G-20 meeting ended on Oct. 23, according to the JPMorgan G-7 Volatility Index. Euro- dollar fluctuations jumped 30 percent since Sept. 20, a day before Federal Reserve policy makers said they were prepared to buy bonds and pump more money into the financial system, data compiled by Bloomberg show.