The World of International Organizations

Weekend Update: Gavi, IMF and Gideons

Medical supplies to fight Ebola arrive at Congo's Beni Airport (AN/Mamadou Alain Coulibaly)

WASHINGTON — Gavi’s chief says the Ebola outbreak is a sign of a deeper public health crisis. Egypt signs a structural reform agreement with IMF. Mongolia is now a shipping power, according to UNCTAD. Gideons U.K. adds women, ends its international affiliation.

Ebola outbreak a sign of deeper public health crisis

The World Health Organization’s recent declaration of the yearlong Ebola outbreak in Congo as a “public health emergency of international concern” is just the most visible sign of a country experiencing a severe health crisis, according to Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public–private global health partnership based in Geneva.

Writing in STAT, Berkley said a successful international response will need to go beyond Congo’s immediate Ebola crisis — in which more than 2,600 people have become infected, resulting in more than 1,750 deaths — and address much deeper, longterm issues that have plagued the region.

“Because in truth it is not just Ebola, but more broadly the situation in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] itself, that represents a public health emergency,” he said in the op-ed article published in STAT.

Ebola isn’t the only epidemic the country is experiencing — and it’s not even the most deadly. Since January, there have been more than 100,000 measles cases in 23 of the country’s 26 provinces, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths.

There also are almost 13,400 suspected cases of cholera, resulting in 266 deaths, and five separate outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus across seven provinces, a signal of low polio vaccination rates.

“All of this represents the clearest indication that public health in the DRC is in a state of emergency,” Berkley said.

Egypt to sign structural reform agreement with IMF

Egypt’s government will sign an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to implement structural reforms within its economy, the Egypt Independent said in a report.

The reforms include integrating the so-called grey economy, which comprises 60 percent of the total economy, with the formal economy, alongside enhancing financial inclusion, restructuring public sector companies, improving market competitiveness, organizing the labor market and reforming the tax structure, according to the report.

The reforms in the oil and natural gas, tourism, construction and manufacturing industries are aimed at raising growth rates and improving living standards, the report said. They also include digitizing customs and taxes to speed trade.

Egypt obtained an IMF loan in 2016 in exchange for implementing a rigorous reform program, beginning with floating the pound.

UNCTAD: Mongolia, with no coastline or ports, becomes shipping power

Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged ship owned by a Swedish company in the Strait of Hormuz last week cast a spotlight on the murky world of international shipping, where shipowners register and re-register vessels within minutes, sometimes in bizarre places, CNN reported.

Under marine law, every merchant ship has to be registered with a country. And while the U.N. Convention on the High Seas says a vessel should have a “genuine” link with its flag state, current rules allow ships to sail under almost any flag, regardless of ownership.

About 40 percent of the global fleet is registered in Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands — three countries that together own just 169 ships, according to the report.

Registration decisions are mostly driven by commercial reasons, and one way to reduce costs is to choose a country such as Mongolia that has no coast or ports and no real, direct relevance to shipping, but offers a flag that is cheap with low standards, CNN said, citing a shipping expert.

According to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, 265 vessels with a total cargo capacity of 664 million tons are now sailing under the Mongolian flag.

Mongolia is not the only landlocked nation with an outsized grip on maritime commerce. Switzerland has grown a global shipping power, with a network of bankers, commodity traders, insurers and shippers, because it is both a global hub for trading raw materials and home to huge multinationals like the Geneva-based shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company.

Gideons U.K. adds women, ending international affiliation

Gideons International, the Christian group that leaves those bibles in hotel rooms, severed ties with another national affiliate over the issue of female memberships.

Gideons U.K. became the latest to break ties with its parent organization by allowing women members, according to a report from Canada’s Gideons Canada went through a similar process in 2011, as did Gideons Sweden, according to the report.

Gideons International started in the United States in 1899 as an international association of Christian business men and their wives “dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments,” its website says. Women can play a “supportive role,” but aren’t allowed to join.

The U.K. organization’s recent vote to allow women to become members passed by a wide margin, even though the change disqualified it from being part of Gideons International.

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