Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a US-based foundation established in 2000. Since 2006, the foundation also benefits from Warren Buffett’s support. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, works with grantees and partner organisations across the globe to address critical health and development priorities – from infectious disease to agricultural development and financial services – to benefit the world’s poorest people.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is guided by the belief that every life has equal value. It works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. Its approach to grantmaking emphasises collaboration, innovation, risk-taking and results. The foundation has six divisions: global health, global development, gender equality, global growth and opportunities, global policy and advocacy, and US Program. This analysis only concerns activities administered by the global divisions.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided USD 4.6 billion for development in 2020 through its grantmaking activities. Compared to 2019, this amount represents an increase of 11% in real terms.

In 2020, the Gates Foundation provided USD 411.7 million of its total contributions for the COVID-19 response, representing 9% of its total gross bilateral development finance, all of which was provided as health expenditure within the COVID-19 response. The Gates Foundation played a leading role in shaping the international response to the pandemic.

In 2020, the Gates Foundation provided USD 1.3 billion to the multilateral system, or 29% of its development finance. The most significant multilateral channels included United Nations (UN) entities; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the World Bank Group. Core contributions to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund amounted to USD 541.7 million in 2020 (12% of total gross disbursements).

The UN system received USD 547.9 million from the Gates Foundation in 2020. The most significant UN recipients included WHO (USD 385.5 million), UNICEF (USD 100 million) and the FAO (USD 16 million).

See the section on Geographic and thematic focus for the geographical and thematic breakdown of bilateral allocations earmarked through the multilateral development system.

In 2020, the Gates Foundation channelled its grants mostly through universities, research institutes and think tanks; non-governmental organisations; and multilateral organisations.

Almost all of these contributions were provided as project-type interventions and technical assistance, including capacity building, organisational effectiveness and research grants.

In 2020, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 1.1 billion of the Gates Foundation’s gross bilateral finance. Of this, 3% was allocated to CSOs as core support and 97% was earmarked for projects initiated by the provider.

In 2020, the Gates Foundation’s development finance was primarily focused on Africa and Asia. USD 1.4 billion was allocated to Africa and USD 552.9 million to Asia, accounting respectively for 33% and 14% of gross bilateral contributions. Fifty-two per cent of gross development finance was unspecified by region in 2020, mainly including multi-regional programmes and research support.

In 2020, 22% of gross development finance went to the Gates Foundation’s top 10 recipients, the largest of which included India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Least developed countries received USD 504.2 million (12%) of the Gates Foundation’s gross disbursements in 2020. Still, the Gates Foundation allocated the highest share of its development finance (18%) to middle-income countries in 2020, noting that 70% was unallocated by income group.

Moreover, the Gates Foundation allocated 3% of its gross development finance to small island developing states in 2020, equal to USD 7.1 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 824 million in 2020, representing 20% of the Gates Foundation’s development finance.

Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2020, 85% of the Gates Foundation’s contributions were allocated to social infrastructure and services, 9% to production sectors, and 3% to economic infrastructure and services. In terms of sectors, the Gates Foundation’s largest allocations went to health and population policies, agriculture, government and civil society, financial and business services, and water and sanitation. Moreover, bilateral humanitarian aid amounted to USD 7.1 million.

In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Gates Foundation committed most of its contributions to SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In 2020, support to SDG 5 (gender equality) amounted to USD 1.2 billion, accounting for 30% of the Gates Foundation’s bilateral commitments. A total of USD 292.7 million (7%) was committed to climate action, all of which was for adaptation.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, the SDG focus of private development finance, channels of delivery, unspecified/unallocated allocations, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

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