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Vol. 6 No. 3: Future health: From the nonhuman to the planetary

Global health futures? Reckoning with a pandemic bond

  • Susan Erikson
September 19, 2018


Since 2010, there has been a discernable expansion of global health financing forms using private equity, bonds, and ‘facilities’ to finance international development and humanitarian endeavors. I present the logics of the Pandemic Emergency Facility (PEF), a World Bank device that lashes together a bond, cash, and swaps to lie in reserve for an infectious disease outbreak. I explain how the PEF is emblematic of financial devices that have the potential to fund global health aid while offering investors a chance to make money. Reckoning with the pandemic bond means that we take account not only of the PEF (what does it organize and by what logics?) but also of the relationships it cultivates (what does it bind together?) and reproduces (what does it aim to multiply and what does it forsake?). I use ‘reckoning with’ as an analytic concept to help us think about measures and futures of global health in both economic and ethical registers, as well as to take account of how death data is used. Reckoning with something lets us pause to take account of where we are and where we are going, and helps us think about what we want. Is it necessary to translate the ethical obligation to help those who are suffering into financial devices that make people money, a trend we are clearly in the initial stages of? Are there conditions when the suffering of others as the source of financial speculation becomes desirable?