NEW YORK, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Tuesday that putting your country first does not require turning your back on the rest of the world.
In their 2019 annual letter released on Tuesday, Melinda said, "Bill and I love our country. We believe in what it stands for. We agree that our leaders have a duty to protect it. And for all of those reasons, we consider global engagement our patriotic duty."
She said nationalism is one of the most loaded words in 21st-century politics. While it's come to mean different things to different people, at its core, nationalism is the belief that a country's first obligation is to itself.
"We're not alone," she said. "You may remember that both times the White House threatened to make severe cuts to America's foreign aid budget, some of the loudest voices of protest came from members of Congress and U.S. military leaders who argued that these investments are vital to protecting American interests."
She said the reason that countries like the United States invest in foreign aid is that it increases stability abroad and security at home. Strengthening health systems overseas decreases the chance of a deadly pathogen like Ebola becoming a global epidemic. Also, ensuring that every parent everywhere has the opportunity to raise safe, educated, healthy children makes it less likely that they will embark on desperate journeys to seek better lives elsewhere.
Bill Gates said, "We're going to be making this case over and over in the next couple of years, because this is a crucial time in global health, and the kind of go-it-alone approach Melinda described could cause a major setback."
He said governments this year will need to recommit to funding for the Global Fund, one of the biggest health efforts in the world. Moreover, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will need to raise money by 2020.
Since 2002, when it was created to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, the Global Fund and its partners have saved 27 million lives. Since 2000, Gavi has provided basic vaccines to more than 690 million children. That's like vaccinating nearly every person in Europe, he said.
"To me these results are astonishing. They show what's possible when we act on the idea that all of us have a stake in the health and well-being of the poorest. It's also incredibly cost-effective: rich countries spend around 0.1 percent of their budgets on health aid."
He expressed the worry that wealthy countries are turning inward and will take such a limited view of their own self-interest that they'll decide these efforts aren't worth the cost. Or that even if everyone agrees in principle that aid is important, they'll be so polarized that their political allegiances will keep them from taking action.
That would be a disaster. Today more than 17 million people living with HIV get medicine from the Global Fund. Without it, they will die, he said.
"That's one reason why Melinda and I are always talking about success stories," he said. "At a time when new outrages seem to dominate the headlines every day, we want to keep reminding people that life is getting better for millions of people in the world's poorest countries, thanks in part to smart investments in health."