Social bonds in response to the COVID-19 crisis: when financial markets save lives

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René Karsenti

A highly contagious respiratory virus is endangering humanity and our established order. Funding must be rapidly mobilised from all sources in the fight against COVID-19 and in the race to contain the resulting economic fallout and build resilience against future shocks. Several social COVID-19 bonds have already been issued by a number of multilateral institutions and public agencies and are already generating significant investor interest, paving the way for more issuances. The stage is now set for social bonds to move from a niche solution to a mainstream one.

A COVID-19 vaccine that is developed, licensed, manufactured and delivered on a global scale in 12 to 18 months would be an unprecedented achievement. Strong global collective action is critical to achieving this goal and bringing the pandemic to an end. Social bonds are poised to play a crucial role in these endeavours. In addition to direct contributions by governments and philanthropists, innovative finance mechanisms should be used to fund COVID-19 vaccines and health solutions. IFFIm Vaccine Bonds have shown that public and private money is available in the global financial markets to invest in an urgent and just cause – it only has to be allocated in the right way.


René Karsenti is Senior Adviser and former President of the International Capital Market Association (ICMA), former Board Chair of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), Honorary Director General of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and former Chairman of the European Capital Markets Institute (ECMI) Board.