Inner City Press
Global Inner Cities Report - January 11, 2006
Who Pays for the
Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far
Matthew Russell Lee, for Inner City Press
The United Nations’ expert on avian flu,
Dr. David Nabarro, briefed reporters in New York on January 11. He named a
target figure for the upcoming “pledge conference” in Beijing -- $1.4 billion.
He then asked reporters not to quote him, or to leave this figure “vague” and
not have it appears in the headlines. But already the number had gone out over
the wires, and it is in the headline of most reports.
being asked to pledge the needed funds? When asked by Inner City Press for his
view of HSBC Banking Corporation’s projection that half of its workforce in
impacted countries might not show up for work, Dr. Nabarro said much thought is
needed on how best to communicate the risks posed by bird flu. He added that
planning for “continuity” is needed among health, electricity and banking
systems, among others.
asked if any corporations have pledged fund to the bird flu fight, Dr. Nabarro
said no. Some, or perhaps only one, have offered employees’ time, but no money.
After the formal briefing, Inner City Press suggested to Dr. Nabarro that at
least such food companies as KFC might see it in their interest to pledge (and
to be seen to have pledged). There was some laughter, but no response. A close
observer of the United Nations might wonder, if the UN’s
Global Compact with corporations
can’t be mobilized for the global bird flu threat, which would impact companies’
workforces, when then would the Compact be useful?
In Turkey, the bird flu H5N1 has been discovered in
poultry over 20% of the country's 81 provinces and thus far over 300,000 birds
have been culled, a process Dr. Nabarro described as putting the birds in a bag,
killing and then most often burying them. When asked why cremation was not being
used, Dr. Nabarro alluded to factors he could not explain. Of children’s deaths
in Turkey by bird flu, Dr. Nabarro said the children were abnormally close with
the birds, giving rise to some muffled laughter in the briefing room. “This is
serious,” Dr. Nabarro said. And it is. Since December 2003, at least 147 cases
of H5N1 in human have been reported, from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand,
Turkey, and Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization, leading so far
to 78 deaths.
Nabarro praised governmental responses to bird flu in Turkey and other countries
that he would not name. “In some countries there is more reliance on the United
Nations,” he said, emphasizing that nations should promptly diagnose and
disclose cases of H5N1. While Dr. Nabarro declined to
name any countries in which such disclosures might not be forthcoming, one
reporter jotted such nations as Myanmar and North Korea. The pledge
conference is in Beijing, January 17-18, 2006. There’ll be a need to follow up.
* * *
Endnote and Global
Inner Cities UN Update: Following the December 28, 2005 briefing on the
Development Fund for Iraq, neither the International Monetary Fund and it
spokesman nor the UN have provided any information about the metering of oil
production in Iraq, for which they stated a contract had been let out to an
American corporation which they left unnamed. The wait continues. Meanwhile, in
UN facility news, the delegation computers in the basement hallway have been
changed, to newer machines that still work slowly, if at all, with the Internet.
In the UN’s second language, plus ca change…
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