India uniquely credible voice to shine spotlight on problems facing Global South: Gates Foundation CEO

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 25-03-2023 14:11 IST | Created: 25-03-2023 14:11 IST
India uniquely credible voice to shine spotlight on problems facing Global South: Gates Foundation CEO
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India is a uniquely credible voice in shining the spotlight on challenges facing the Global South and its G20 presidency would be central to advance the agenda of building health and digital public infrastructure in developing countries, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman has said.

Suzman also said India can play a key role in keeping the global focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the development needs of billions of people on the planet when the western powers are preoccupied with geopolitical conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine.

The CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on a visit to India this week, said the discussions on various global conflicts and confrontations must not take away the core focus from the challenges being faced by underprivileged people across the planet.

''Every one of those countries that is in a geopolitical conflict is also a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals, which are commitments to their own citizens and the world that they would stay focused on health and development and leave no one behind,'' Suzman told PTI in an interview.

''That is not currently the case. I think India is a uniquely credible voice in trying to keep shining that spotlight,'' he said.

Suzman said India has been effectively highlighting the problems of the Global South or the developing countries when the ''Global North'' is preoccupied with issues such as the war in Ukraine and domestic inflationary challenges.

''They (Global North) have lost sight of the fact that actually, there is a crisis facing large parts of the Global South right now,'' he said.

The rich countries are referred to as ''Global North'' while developing nations are called ''Global South''.

''Our own Goalkeepers Report that we put out every year that looks at progress on the Sustainable Development Goals shows that after nearly two decades of steady improvements in health and poverty reduction and agricultural productivity, we have seen those stagnate or drop in the last two or three years in many countries,'' Suzman said.

''Not in India's case. India is an exception, which, we know you would like to be growing faster than it is, but it is still growing faster than any other larger economy and faster than many other smaller economies,'' the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO said.

He said India has been an influential voice today globally and its G20 presidency is expected to drive a global agenda on key challenges.

''India is clearly one of the world's global powers right now -- by economic might, by population, by its presence in chairing bodies like the G20 and through its example of taking action in areas, again, like digital public goods or health or education,'' Suzman said.

''And so, again, we tend to look at this through the lens of health and development and support for poor people. And so, that is the primary lens where we see amazing opportunities to participate. It is also where we have partnered work most extensively in India. Now, we have worked in India for two decades,'' he added.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working in India in a number of areas, including public health, sanitation, gender equality and poverty alleviation, for nearly two decades.

Suzman also lauded India for building an efficient digital public infrastructure and specifically mentioned the Aadhaar system and ''amazing'' platforms for accessing digital financial services.

''I think India's progress on building a digital public infrastructure, which works not just for the whole country, but actually has some very targeted investments of very particular benefits for some of the poorest and neediest, including (in the) rural areas, is a real model for the rest of the world,'' he said.

''It has been very exciting to see the evolution, which we at the Gates Foundation have been part of over the last decade,'' Suzman said.

''The fact that the Aadhaar system now has essentially 100 per cent penetration among adults, that there are amazing platforms of access to digital financial services, of tools, like the DigiLocker, which we in the United States could only dream of having at the moment,'' he added.

Suzman said India has put in place a strong, robust digital infrastructure, which is still growing and developing, adding, ''We think and believe it could and should be a great public good for the rest of the world.'' He said India's financial inclusion journey has been successful in bridging the gender-based access gaps, but indicated that there continues to be significant gender-based user-gaps.

Suzman pointed out that the usage of digital financial tools is still much lower among women.

''I think there are a number of tools and techniques to drive usage now that we have got access. And hopefully, we will see that gap continuing to narrow as we have seen the gap in access narrow,'' he said.

Suzman said India can play a role in helping low-and-middle-income countries in terms of helping them build and scale up the digital public infrastructure.

''We have already seen from some of the examples in India that real success and empowerment and transformation can come when you are actually providing inclusive platforms that draw on the poor section. And so that is another area where I hope India's leadership will make sure that it is central to any G20 follow-up,'' he added.

Suzman said there are expectations from the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May and the G20 summit in India in September about how to address various global challenges.

''And with India's leadership, that is a moment in time where hopefully, we can both provide new energy to some of these potential public goods like the digital public infrastructure, but also reinvigorate important debates, like how are we actually maximising international finance from institutions like the World Bank or the IMF to focus on the needs of the Global South, rather than being distracted or to focus on the real needs and not the needs that do not address the many, many billions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America, where our focus is,'' he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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