ENGLAND: Faith leaders back British finance bond for mass immunization of poor

November 15, 2006

The engagement of faith-based organizations in economic justice has been highlighted by the subscription of Pope Benedict XVI and the leaders of five other leading faiths in Britain to an inaugural bond issued by the British Treasury.

The bond is expected to raise $1 billion for the mass immunization of children in developing countries.

A statement by Britain's finance ministry said the aim of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) bond is to deliver $4 billion over the next 10 years earmarked for immunizing up to 500 million children in the world's poorest countries against preventable diseases like polio, measles, and diphtheria.

When it was launched on November 7, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, praised the initiative masterminded by Britain's Finance Minister, Gordon Brown. The Anglican leader noted: "By buying a bond I make a small contribution to a much bigger effort to mobilize resources to relieve poverty and suffering and build hope for a better future."

Long-term binding commitments by donors will be used to borrow money directly from institutional and private investors for immediate expenditure on programs undertaken by the GAVI Alliance (which used to be known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) to begin before the end of 2006 on tetanus and measles prevention.

At the ceremony, support for the venture came from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales; Sir Jonathan Sacks United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Iqbal Khan, chairperson of the business and economics committee of the Muslim Council of Britain; Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum; and Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK.

Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan also attended the gathering.