No one in our lifetimes has done more than Peter Singer to advance the critical idea that all lives have value. He is truly one of my heroes—a man who has built a powerful intellectual and moral case for helping the poorest of the poor, even if they live halfway around the world and even if we will never meet them.
This week, Singer was awarded the 2021 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture, and we couldn’t be happier to see him receive the much-deserved and long-overdue recognition that comes with this prize. Previous recipients include Dr. Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health, and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg—impressive company indeed!
The Berggruen Prize also comes with a $1 million cash award. And true to form—true to his deep sense of moral commitment—Singer has announced that he will give half of the award to The Life You Can Save, an organization that he founded to identify and support high-impact, cost-effective charities that save or improve the lives of the world’s poorest people. Fistula Foundation is honored to be in that group.
I first met Singer in 2008 at a lecture that he gave in San Francisco. His key message in that talk strongly resonated with the approach that we were already taking at Fistula Foundation. Every life is of equal worth, he argued, and people in wealthy countries have a moral obligation to act—and to act effectively—to end the suffering of people in low-income countries. The following year, Singer published a book, The Life You Can Save, and I was immensely gratified to see our organization featured in the book.
The Berggruen Prize is given annually to “thinkers whose ideas have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world.” That certainly describes Peter Singer. He helped establish the growing movement for Effective Altruism and has elevated the conversation around evidence-based philanthropy. Singer, in other words, keeps us on our toes: He reminds us that the focus of philanthropy should be on reducing human pain and misery—and on doing as much good as we can with every dollar spent.
At Fistula Foundation, Singer’s thinking has deeply informed how we continue to hone our strategy, and he inspires us to stay on mission. For my part, I am proud to a call Singer both a hero and a friend.
Our work in Kenya—in particular, the countrywide treatment network that we have built there—exemplifies our commitment to following Singer’s moral vision. This month, we are inviting supporters to take part in a special challenge match to help women in Kenya who suffer from fistula. Please join us in that effort.
CEO, Fistula Foundation