The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is cutting ties with a charity chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, becoming the latest western organization to take a step back from Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince himself following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2.
Saudi officials deny MBS, as the Crown Prince is known, had any role in the killing, however many analysts say it would have been impossible for him not to have been involved. The prince’s reputation in the west, once bolstered by trips to meet heads of government and by lavishly-funded advertising campaigns, has been hit hard by the Khashoggi affair.
The Gates Foundation revealed on Nov. 1 it had suspended all its future work with the Misk Foundation, a charity founded and chaired by bin Salman. The Gates Foundation had pledged $5 million to Misk, which runs an initiative called the Grand Challenges Program giving grants to health and development-related applicants.
In a statement, the Gates Foundation said: “Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and murder is extremely troubling. We are observing current events with concern, and we do not plan to fund any subsequent rounds of the Misk Grand Challenges program.”
Around $1.5 million of the Gates Foundation’s $5 million has already been awarded, and the foundation said it would honor commitments to grantees.
By contrast, a number of American consulting firms working in Saudi Arabia have kept multimillion-dollar contracts in the kingdom despite growing backlash over the murder of Khashoggi, the New York Times reported on Monday.
Booz Allen Hamilton, the American contractor, is currently training the Saudi Arabian Navy, which is carrying out an economic blockade in Yemen which has brought that country to the brink of what U.N. officials say could be the worst famine in living memory.
Also still working in the Kingdom is the U.S. firm McKinsey, which in 2017 bought a Saudi consultancy. That consultancy created a report detailing the personal information of critics of the Saudi regime, like Khashoggi, some of whom were subsequently arrested.
And the U.S. military itself is still providing military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.