Bioethics Blogs

The Financialization of Ebola by Susan L. Erikson

Original Ebola Virus Image by Frederick A. Murphy/CDC; downloaded November 3, 2015. Modification to image by Lukas Henne, November 3, 2015.

Far away from the frontlines of the Ebola outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, where people and their caretakers die from the disease, new forms of humanitarian aid and global health financing are being leveraged behind closed doors. In Washington, D.C., London, and Geneva, long-standing government-to-government models of global cooperation and international development assistance, imperfect as they are, are being supplanted by new forms of finance that prioritize profits for private shareholders. Global health futures, it appears, are poised to become more deeply embedded with private instruments of high finance. Some economists argue that these new forms of finance are new models of global cooperation that will benefit millions (e.g., Collier 2013). Some venture- and philanthrocapitalists posit that these new forms are necessary to motivate nation-states and individuals to fix global health problems (e.g., Egerton-Warburton 2015). And while new forms of financing introduce new opportunities, they also introduce new vulnerabilities and risks to global publics.

Market-driven pandemic response financing is currently being promoted by the World Bank as the means for attending to funding shortfalls. In a turn away from redistributive, taxpayer-based donor health aid, financial instruments like the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Facility — known more colloquially as “Ebola bonds” — look increasingly likely to finance future global pandemic response. The need to study these financial instruments is urgent: instrument ‘making’ is happening now at the World Bank and mostly out of public view.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.