In our networked world, inequality and poverty in one place inevitable trigger responses elsewhere. Problems such as diseases cross all boundaries. Security and stability can only be achieved by deepening international cooperation. This begins with the obligation to eradicate poverty and inequality, argues Bill Gates.
Germany shows us today that cooperation is a major step forward. We have defeated smallpox and are about to eliminate polio. In the past twenty-five years, infant mortality has been reduced by half. The number of poor people in the world has been reduced by more than half.
This progress was made possible with the financial support and know-how of Germany and other countries. Yet there is still a long way to go. Hundreds of millions of people are chronically ill, malnourished and unable to lead a life of dignity. Nearly six million children die each year—especially in poorer countries and primarily of preventable causes.
I am optimistic, however, that we can achieve even greater progress over the next twenty-five years. There are two crucial findings of the past quarter-century on which Germany and other countries can build.
We need to make sure that innovations reach those people that are least able to help themselves.
First, we need to increase our investments in innovation. Much of the progress that makes our lives so much better is the result of public investments in research labs and universities. Let’s take, for example, smartphones or the contents of today’s medicine cabinet—innovations that started in government-funded labs or universities.
Second, we need to make sure that innovations reach those people that are least able to help themselves. This cannot always be guaranteed by markets. Vaccines, for example, are a proven and highly effective tool to prevent childhood diseases and related deaths.
For many years, there was unfortunately no market mechanism to make life-saving vaccines and medicines available to people in the world’s poorest countries, even though they had been available in the industrial nations for decades. There was a gap between the ability of developing countries to pay and the kind of demand that a vaccine manufacturer needs to provide them at a reasonable price.
An idea that has saved thousands of lives
To solve this problem, Germany and other donors have launched a public-private partnership called Gavi. Gavi pools the demand of dozens of the poorest countries for vital drugs. This results in the necessary quantity forecasts to be able to offer products at a cheaper price. Just a few months ago, Gavi, in collaboration with Unicef, managed to negotiate the lowest price ever for five vaccines each child needs.
Germany, as one of the strongest economies and leading democracies, is excellently positioned to help create a more just and stable world. As the host of the G20 Summit in 2017, Germany plays a central role in making the benefits of innovation available to more than two billion people still living in extreme poverty.
Everyone is entitled to lead a healthy, fulfilling life, regardless of where he or she is born. It is only when we pursue a policy which is in harmony with this basic idea that we create the conditions for a secure world.