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Gates Foundation highlights ‘remarkable progress’

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched an inaugural annual report showcasing the remarkable progress that has been made in reducing extreme poverty and disease in recent decades, but issuing a stern warning to the world that future progress is in jeopardy.

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data, co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, highlights past progress against some of the most devastating issues facing poor countries and uses breakthrough data projections to forecast good and bad future scenarios – with millions of lives hanging in the balance.

In all, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion and sanitation. The report looks beneath the numbers to pinpoint the leaders, approaches and innovations that made a difference.

Through the data and first-person accounts from six contributors, the report showcases the stunning progress the world has made in the past generation: cutting extreme poverty and child deaths in half and reducing HIV deaths and maternal deaths by nearly half, among many other accomplishments. But as the report shows, serious challenges remain – including deep disparities between countries – and future progress is not inevitable.

The projections are showcased in charts and explore three potential 2030 scenarios for each indicator. The first is what could happen if we continue along the current path, based on past trends – without significant changes to approaches or current spending levels. Two additional scenarios provide a glimpse at a better and worse future: what could happen with strong leadership, innovation and investment and, starkly, what could happen if attention and funding waned. For example, a mere 10% cut in global donor funding for HIV treatment could result in more than five million more deaths by 2030.

In their introduction, Bill and Melinda Gates express concern that shifting priorities, instability and potential budget cuts could lead the world to turn away from its commitments, jeopardising the positive trajectory needed to end extreme poverty and wipe out diseases by 2030.

“This report comes at a time when there is more doubt than usual about the world’s commitment to development,” Bill and Melinda Gates say in the report. “Take it from the point of view of justice, or take it from the point of view of creating a secure and stable world: development deserves our attention.”

Bill and Melinda Gates will produce the Goalkeepers report every year through 2030, timed for the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. In 2015, world leaders committed to the Global Goals, which are focused on ending extreme poverty and fighting inequalities. The Goalkeepers report focuses on a subset of the indicators in the Global Goals and is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners and leaders around the world accountable. It will document not just what is working, but where the world is falling short.

The report includes first-person accounts from leaders whose innovations and policies have already made a difference – from tackling stunting in Peru to increasing uptake of modern contraceptives in Senegal, to bringing more women in India into the formal financial sector.

It is clear from the report that decisions the world collectively makes in the next couple of years will have a significant impact on the futures of millions, if not billions, of people. Leadership, Bill and Melinda Gates argue, will make the difference in which path the world takes:

“Poverty and disease in poor countries are the clearest examples we know of solvable human misery. It is a fact that this misery is solvable and we have it within our power to decide how much of it actually gets solved. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s lead.”