Event: The Surging Pandemic of Health and Food Financialization

30 Jan 2024
10:00 - 16:30
Maison Internationale de l’Environnement, Geneva

Described as the progressively “increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operations of domestic and international economies”[1], financialization has expanded in a variety of clever ways in the last two decades, through the creation of new asset classes for private investments and speculations. This trend has not excluded key aspects related to human life, some of which are profoundly connected with fundamental rights and human dignity, like health and food. In fact, these two commons[2] - health and food - have been aggressively commodified, with nontrivial profit-making hiding in plain sight, at the expense of right holders and access to health and food.

The most worrying consequence of financialization is precisely the exorbitant leverage that private financial actors and institutions have obtained within the health and food arena. The framing of policy orientations and governance set-ups influenced by financial players that constantly promote the unregulated engagement of the private sector has metamorphosed the human rights to health and food. These have been broadly subjugated to shareholder values, market solutions, monopoly regimes, financial volatility; the commodification of health and food has been widely used for oligopolistic profit extraction, a phenomenon that has gained new modalities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

One example of the private-sector intrusion in shaping public sector policies is the insistence on innovative financing and particularly the use of “blended finance” via the model of the so-called Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs).  PPPs’ systematic use by the UN agencies in the Global South has contributed to crown them as the holy grail for international development, both in health and food – not without serious negative externalities.

With power and money, private entities have mushroomed and started substituting themselves to the governments, as we have seen during the pandemic. In direct contradiction with the “leaving no one behind” goal, the unequal and indeed discriminatory distribution of vaccines and other essential tools during the pandemic led to injustice of historic proportion for disenfranchised populations. This episode should not be forgotten too easily. Instead, it should inspire a rerouting of future scenarios.  Instead, in its “Evolution Roadmap” published in 2023, the World Bank reiterated the role of private sector solutions and financing as the way to go to produce global public goods. As well as generating profound inequalities among and within states, the unrestrained role of private investors in health and food results in forging governance at national and international level, often weakening state legitimacy and infantilizing the role of governments vis a vis global private stakeholders.

Considering how neglected the issue of financialization and its consequences is in development circles, the Society for International Development (SID) has planned this workshop mainly aimed at decision-makers to raise awareness and initiate a frank dialogue on how to tackle and reverse this frightening financial trend in health and food, two highly interconnected arenas.  


[1] Epstein G. A., edited by (2005). Financialization and the World Economy. Edward Elgar Publishing, August 2005.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons


The workshop’s agenda   

10:15 - 10:30     Registrations, welcome  & handshaking

The workshop organized by the Society for International Development will be divided into two separate yet interlinked sessions. The morning session will be addressing key aspects of health financialization. In the afternoon, financialization of food and land, in connection with climate change, will be discussed.  The two panels are framed as follows:

10:30 - 13:00      The Not So Hidden Costs of Health Financialization

  • Financialization and global healthcare: Benjamin Hunter, Lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of Glasgow
  • Improving health, but for whom?: Mariska Meurs, WEMOS
  • The false solution of Public Private PartnershipsMaria José Romero, EURODAD
  • The debt and financialization spiral: any good for health? Attiya Waris, the UN Special Rapporteur on Foreign Debt and Human Rights

The session will be moderated by Nicoletta Dentico, SID Global Health Justice Program

13:00 - 13:50     Lunch break

14:00 - 16:30    Financialization, at the Crossroad of Food and Land Rights

  • Enrichment and impoverishment through food financialization Tomaso Ferrando, Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp
  • Speculative harvests: the promotion of insurance schemes for poor and small-scale farmers  Ryan Isakson, Economist, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto
  • Financializing food governance: An African perspective Mamadou Goïta Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development / IPES Food
  • The financialization of people’s territories: Impact on communities and challenges for accountability Philip Seufert, FIAN International

The session will be moderated by Stefano Prato, SID Managing Director


With the support of:

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