Christoph Eder, corporAID

Issue 91 - summer 2021

Christoph Eder, editor-in-chief of corporAID magazine
Christoph Eder, Editor-in-Chief

Usually the directors-general of the specialized agencies of the United Nations are only known to established connoisseurs of international politics. This applies, for example, to Messrs. Qu and Li, who head the World Food Organization FAO and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO. But one of them is currently out of line: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has been Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2017, plays in the premier league of global politics. Since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the Ethiopian has regularly and publicly given the warning conscience when he demands a fair distribution of the vaccines in view of the fact that corona vaccines are currently in short supply in poorer regions of the world. He does not finally explain what such a fair distribution could look like. In addition, a large number of vaccines in developing countries could not be inoculated on the fly, given the short shelf life and inadequate logistics. 

With all the heated discussions and admonishing words, it is often ignored that never before in history have new vaccines been developed, approved and also produced in huge quantities in such a short time. In addition, the industrialized countries have promised to provide billions of doses to developing countries within the next few months. Nevertheless, Tedros never tires of accusing the richer countries with selfishness and injustice at every opportunity.

In the world of global development, the WHO Director-General runs open doors with this argument. In hardly any other political field do the big issues so often revolve around scarce goods, not least wealth. And thus also the question of how it can be achieved that there is enough for everyone. Unlike natural resources and public goods, products designed and made by humans - like Covid vaccines - have no limits. We create them, and if the framework conditions are right, also in large numbers and at ever lower prices. 

It is not the case that the question of distributive justice has no justification in this context, but the focus on it obscures what is really important at the moment: a rapid increase in vaccine volumes and well-thought-out vaccination campaigns. All of this is already in progress. The coordinator of the global vaccination initiative Covax expects that it will have enough vaccines available for its projects as early as autumn and warns that too many vaccine doses could reach individual developing countries that may be overwhelmed too quickly. The question of distribution should ultimately be less a political one than a logistical one.

Photo: Mihai M. Mitrea