Person

Mark Suzman

Mark Suzman is the CEO of the left-of-center Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to becoming CEO of the Foundation in February 2020, Suzman worked at the Foundation for thirteen years in a number of positions, including chief strategy officer.  Before joining the Foundation, Suzman worked for the United Nations, assisting in the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals. [1]

Since becoming CEO, Suzman has led the Gates Foundation’s $1.75 billion investment into creating and distributing effective COVID-19 vaccines for the developing world, claiming that life cannot go back to normal until everyone in the world has the opportunity to receive a vaccine. [2] Suzman has criticized right-of-center policies in relation to the pandemic, including the Trump administration’s decisions to cut global aid funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and to guarantee that the government would purchase vaccines ahead of their development. [3] [4]

Early Life and Career

Mark Suzman was born in South Africa. Suzman’s great aunt was Helen Suzman, an anti-apartheid activist who served in the South African Parliament for 36 years. Suzman himself lived through apartheid and personally knew anti-apartheid campaigner and later democratically elected President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. [5]

Suzman attended Harvard University for his bachelor’s degree before receiving a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. After graduation, Suzman returned to South Africa to pursue a career in journalism, writing for the Johannesburg Star and the Financial Times on welfare reform, international trade, and political events, including Mandela’s 1994 election. [6]

In 2000, Suzman pivoted in his career, going to work for the United Nations (UN). There, Suzman worked under then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan to implement the Millennium Development Goals, an international antipoverty agenda. Suzman worked at the UN until 2007, during which time he held several positions, including senior advisor for policy and strategic communications in the Office of the Secretary General and policy director in the Office of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [7]

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2007, Suzman joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as director of global development policy, advocacy, and special initiatives. Before becoming CEO of the Gates Foundation, Suzman worked in a variety of roles, overseeing the development of Foundation programs and offices abroad and managing the Foundation’s partnerships with governments, philanthropists, and civil society organizations. [8]

In December 2019, former Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann stepped down from the position, and Bill and Melinda Gates appointed Suzman to take her place in February 2020. [9] As CEO, Suzman set initial goals to build public confidence in the Foundation, focus on achieving quantifiable initiative results, and target gender inequities around the world. [10] [11]

Suzman cited gender equality as one of his primary priorities, claiming that progress depends upon promoting gender equality. [12] Suzman has advocated especially for the increased education of women and girls, arguing that female literacy reduces child marriages, improves health, and lowers teenage birth rates. [13] Suzman has also argued for increased economic freedom for women, supporting initiatives to provide women with baking services and business loans that encourage them to open their own businesses, especially in agriculture. [14] According to Suzman, promoting female economic independence is critical to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include goals to reduce poverty by half and double agricultural productivity. [15]

COVID-19 Initiatives

Suzman took over as CEO of the Gates Foundation immediately before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and during his time as CEO, Suzman has targeted nearly all the organization’s resources on developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Suzman has argued, “We cannot defeat this pandemic unless everyone, everywhere, has a chance to get vaccinated.” [16]

Between March and April of 2020, Suzman led the Gates Foundation to commit $250 million in initial funding to support the fight against COVID-19. The original funds were earmarked to increase research into preventative measures and treatments for COVID-19, in addition to increasing the availability of medical supplies. [17] That May, Suzman called on the United States to join leaders of European and Asian nations in pledging $8 billion to the World Health Organization to fight COVID-19. [18] Suzman also oversaw efforts to create the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator in search of a vaccine and treatment options for COVID-19 and encouraged the mass manufacturing of the vaccine to reach all seven billion people in the world. [19]

In December 2020, Suzman committed an additional $250 million on behalf of the Foundation to accelerate vaccine rollout, the single largest contribution made by the Foundation during the COVID-19 pandemic[20] As of February 2021, the Foundation under Suzman’s leadership has committed more than $1.75 billion to accelerating the development and distribution of effective COVID-19 vaccines, especially for low- and middle-income countries. [21]

Political Statements

Suzman has opposed right-of-center policies in the past, encouraging global cooperation in support of development goals. Suzman has claimed that Brexit and former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords mark a trend of isolationism that threatens global partnerships and financial giving to solve world health problems. Suzman has further argued that decreased government aid for global health organizations is posing life-threatening challenges to global health. [22]

In 2020, Suzman congratulated Congress for not supporting then-President Trump’s cuts to global aid funding, while opposing President Trump’s decision to withhold funding from the WHO. [23] Suzman has also called on the World Bank to pause African debt obligations, of which the United States is the largest shareholder. [24]

Suzman has criticized any attempts to build bilateral agreements surrounding COVID-19, instead demanding that states fund the WHO-led COVAX program to provide vaccines to developing nations. Suzman also criticized countries such as the United States for buying COVID-19 vaccines in advance, arguing for an “equitable” distribution program that prioritizes developing countries. [25] [26]

References

  1. “Mark Suzman.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Leadership/Executive-Leadership-Team/Mark-Suzman#:~:text=Mark%20joined%20the%20foundation%20in,Advocacy%2C%20and%20chief%20strategy%20officer. ^
  2. Suzman, Mark. “Global Action: the Only Way To Get Ahead of COVID-19.” Premium Times Nigeria, February 12, 2021. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/442292-global-action-the-only-way-to-get-ahead-of-covid-19-by-mark-suzman.html. ^
  3. Suzman, Mark. “The Most Important Story You Missed in 2019.” Jordan Times, November 23, 2019. https://jordantimes.com/opinion/mark-suzman/most-important-story-you-missed-2019. ^
  4. “GZERO Media Town Hall: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic.” GZERO Media, March 9, 2021. https://www.gzeromedia.com/events/gzero-media-town-hall-ending-the-covid-19-pandemic. ^
  5. Suzman, Mark. “A Letter from Our CEO, Mark Suzman: Reflections to Guide Our next Twenty Years.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates Foundation, February 24, 2020. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/TheOptimist/Articles/reflections-from-gates-foundation-ceo-mark-suzman. ^
  6. “Mark Suzman.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Leadership/Executive-Leadership-Team/Mark-Suzman#:~:text=Mark%20joined%20the%20foundation%20in,Advocacy%2C%20and%20chief%20strategy%20officer. ^
  7. “Mark Suzman.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Leadership/Executive-Leadership-Team/Mark-Suzman#:~:text=Mark%20joined%20the%20foundation%20in,Advocacy%2C%20and%20chief%20strategy%20officer. ^
  8. “Mark Suzman.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed March 10, 2021. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Leadership/Executive-Leadership-Team/Mark-Suzman#:~:text=Mark%20joined%20the%20foundation%20in,Advocacy%2C%20and%20chief%20strategy%20officer. ^
  9. “CEO Announcement 2019.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, December 5, 2019. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2019/12/CEO-Announcement-2019#:~:text=Bill%20and%20Melinda%20Gates%20have,role%20on%20February%201%2C%202020. ^
  10. Williams, Juanita. “Africa: We Can Make Our World Better – Mark Suzman of Gates Foundation.” allAfrica.com, February 21, 2020. https://allafrica.com/stories/202002200578.html. ^
  11. . Williams, Juanita “Africa: New Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman Plots to Increase Poverty-Reduction Impact.” allAfrica.com. All Africa, February 20, 2020. https://allafrica.com/stories/202002170885.html. ^
  12. Williams, Juanita. “Africa: New Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman Plots to Increase Poverty-Reduction Impact.” allAfrica.com. All Africa, February 20, 2020. https://allafrica.com/stories/202002170885.html. ^
  13. Suzman, Mark. “Data-Driven Gender Equality.” Medium. Project Syndicate, September 20, 2017. https://medium.com/project-syndicate/data-driven-gender-equality-801ada4f78f8. ^
  14. Suzman, Mark. “Data-Driven Gender Equality.” Medium. Project Syndicate, September 20, 2017. https://medium.com/project-syndicate/data-driven-gender-equality-801ada4f78f8. ^
  15. Williams, Juanita. “Africa: New Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman Plots to Increase Poverty-Reduction Impact.” allAfrica.com. All Africa, February 20, 2020. https://allafrica.com/stories/202002170885.html. ^
  16. Suzman, Mark. “Global Action: the Only Way To Get Ahead of COVID-19.” Premium Times Nigeria, February 12, 2021. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/442292-global-action-the-only-way-to-get-ahead-of-covid-19-by-mark-suzman.html. ^
  17. Bishop, Todd. “Gates Foundation Boosts COVID-19 Funding to $250M, Says Defeating Disease Will Take ‘Unprecedented’ Global Cooperation.” GeekWire, April 15, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/gates-foundation-boosts-covid-19-spending-250m-says-defeating-disease-will-take-unprecedented-global-cooperation/. ^
  18. Boyle, Alan. “Gates Foundation CEO: US and China Should Smooth over Their ‘Divide’ on Coronavirus Crisis.” GeekWire, May 9, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/gates-foundation-ceo-us-china-smooth-divide-covid-19-crisis/. ^
  19. Suzman, Mark. “Announcing the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates Foundation, March 9, 2020. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/TheOptimist/Articles/coronavirus-mark-suzman-therapeutics. ^
  20. Suzman, Mark. “Mark Suzman: Why We’re Giving $250 Million More to Fight Covid-19.” Caixin Global, December 10, 2020. https://www.caixinglobal.com/2020-12-10/mark-suzman-why-were-giving-250-million-more-to-fight-covid-19-101637963.html. ^
  21. Suzman, Mark. “Global Action: the Only Way To Get Ahead of COVID-19.” Premium Times Nigeria, February 12, 2021. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/442292-global-action-the-only-way-to-get-ahead-of-covid-19-by-mark-suzman.html. ^
  22. Delaney, Kevin J. “The Gates Foundation Has given Nearly $10 Billion to These Four Organizations.” Quartz. Quartz, January 17, 2019. https://qz.com/1526049/the-gates-foundation-has-given-nearly-10-billion-to-these-four-organizations/. ^
  23. Suzman, Mark. “The Most Important Story You Missed in 2019.” Jordan Times, November 23, 2019. https://jordantimes.com/opinion/mark-suzman/most-important-story-you-missed-2019. ^
  24. Dudley, Brier. “Support the Global Conspiracy to Save Lives.” The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company, April 24, 2020. https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/support-the-global-conspiracy-to-save-lives/. ^
  25. Suzman, Mark. “Global Action: the Only Way To Get Ahead of COVID-19.” Premium Times Nigeria, February 12, 2021. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/442292-global-action-the-only-way-to-get-ahead-of-covid-19-by-mark-suzman.html. ^
  26. “GZERO Media Town Hall: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic.” GZERO Media, March 9, 2021. https://www.gzeromedia.com/events/gzero-media-town-hall-ending-the-covid-19-pandemic. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Non-profit)
    CEO (since 2020)
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