Aid pact may save UN plan for relief

The UN welcomes a co-operation pact between the software tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates and Dubai Cares.

Powered by automated translation

NEW YORK // The UN, fearing some of its ambitious aid goals are threatened by the economic downturn, has welcomed a co-operation pact between the software tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates, and Dubai Cares. This week, the Dubai-based charity signed an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to co-fund projects aimed at improving the health and education of children in the developing world, and contribute to a set of UN poverty-reduction targets called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Salil Shetty, the director of the UN Millennium Campaign, said an alliance between two multibillion dollar development bodies could greatly help in achieving the UN's ambitious targets by 2015. Announcing the deal, officials outlined a long-term partnership that aims to improve primary schools and the health of children who attend them in poor parts of Africa and Asia. At the signing, Reem al Hashimy, the chairwoman of Dubai Cares, promised "innovative solutions" for a "lasting impact on the ground".

Mr Gates said poverty was such an enormous problem that "collaboration is critical to success". The pact comes as progress towards the eight MDGs, set in 2000, has been hit by the economic downturn. The MDGs aim to provide primary schooling to all children and reduce the mortality rate for under-fives by two thirds, by 2015. Falu Njie, deputy policy director for the Millennium Campaign, said Dubai Cares and the Gates Foundation should focus on Africa, Asia and Latin America - in remote districts and among indigenous populations.

Anita Sharma, the campaign's co-ordinator for North America, said primary school enrolment had reached "about 90 per cent now in almost all the regions" and said the charity tie-up should focus on education quality. "There are still some gaps in terms of the people who are able to attend a school, but now there is a big question over what they do when they are at school," said Ms Sharma. "Do they have the books? Do they have the teachers?"

The Gates Foundation has given more than US$28 billion (Dh103bn) to fight poverty since its inception in 2000 and donates about $800m a year to global health programmes. Launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, during Ramadan in 2007, Dubai Cares has raised more than $1bn to provide primary schooling. The charity has partnered with several international organisations, including Save the Children and Unicef, and helps more than four million children in 20 countries, including Yemen and Sudan.