Foreign Policy Digital

Western Accolades Are Egging Autocrats On

The Gates Foundation is giving an award to Narendra Modi. That's a big mistake.

On Sept. 2, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it was honoring India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his efforts to build toilets and end open defecation in the country. The move has already drawn controversy from inside the foundation—but the leadership is pushing ahead anyway, preparing for the ceremony in New York next week.

The opponents of the award are right. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the idea behind Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Modi’s flagship project, itself. Open defecation is a : In 2015 it was estimated that 522 million Indians—over a third of the country—still defecated outside. Sanitation often gets left behind in the endless search for funds, but improving health starts with the availability of running water and a toilet—such as the 92 the project has installed.

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