Sep 14, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Avian influenza and other diseases that originated in animals show that the World Health Organization (WHO) needs to pay more attention to animal health, the WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific said at an international conference yesterday.Dr. Shigeru Omi, discussing the response to avian flu, said, “Animal health has not traditionally been seen as part of WHO’s mandate. We can no longer afford to take that view. Both avian influenza and SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] originated in animals, as did other recent emerging pathogens, such as the Nipah virus in Malaysia in 1999. We can be virtually certain that more zoonotic diseases will continue to emerge.”Omi’s comments were in a report he presented to the WHO’s Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, which is holding its annual meeting this week in Shanghai.Omi said the WHO Western Pacific Region staff is working on a joint strategy with the agency’s Southeast Asia Region “to combat outbreak-prone diseases, in full consultation with WHO Headquarters. This document will include a significant component on the production and marketing of animals for food.”He also said the WHO’s Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions need to increase collaboration to combat disease threats. “Improved collaboration between our two regions will have global implications,” he stated. “Many of the emerging global threats to health begin in Asia—if we can nip them in the bud here, the whole world will benefit.”Omi added that he has begun an “extensive dialogue” with the Southeast Asia regional director on how to strengthen the two regions’ joint efforts.In other comments, Omi urged countries to strengthen their preparedness for the possible re-emergence of SARS and H5N1 avian flu. “Many countries still do not have national pandemic preparedness plans essential to minimize the impact of the next pandemic,” he said, as quoted in a WHO news release.The WHO statement said that despite Asia’s experience with avian flu, which has killed at least 28 people and forced the destruction of millions of poultry this year, “most countries lack comprehensive programmes to prevent animal-to-human transmission of zoonotic diseases.”In other developments, three new poultry outbreaks of avian flu were detected in northeastern Malaysia, one of them outside the existing 20-kilometer-wide quarantine zone, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. All three outbreaks were in Kelantan state.Malaysia’s first outbreak of H5N1 avian flu was detected in mid-August, in fighting cocks thought to have been smuggled from Thailand. Before today, outbreaks had been reported in at least five locations in the quarantine zone.The AFP report said five birds at the new outbreak site outside the quarantine zone showed signs of disease. A veterinary official said 579 birds have already been culled at the other two new outbreak sites, which are villages inside the quarantine zone, according to the report.AFP also reported that a 26-year-old man and an 8-year-old girl from one of the villages were hospitalized for observation because of symptoms that included cough and flu-like symptoms. Ramlee Rahmat, a Health Ministry official, was quoted as saying both patients had had contact with dying chickens.Also today, a report by the Thai newspaper The Nation said seven suspected human cases of avian flu in Thailand were ruled out on the basis of laboratory tests. Test results were still being awaited in three other suspected cases, the newspaper said.See also:Dr. Shigeru Omi’s report to the WHO regional meeting in Shanghaihttp://www.wpro.who.int/mediacentre/releases/2004/20040913/en/index.html
Ambachtsheer said a “rough estimate” was that such agency problems were lowering long-term returns by 1.5% per annum and questioned how these foregone returns would be captured.“Institutional investors around the globe, led by the pension fund sector, are well-placed to play a ‘lead wagon’ fiduciary role in driving those agency costs down by focusing the capital at their disposal on the long term,” he said.The academic said such an approach would both “foster good citizenship” and boost returns for long-term investors.In a survey conducted for the Rotman Institute, covering 81 pension fund chief executives with assets of CAD4trn (€2.2trn), respondents noted that external managers were “not really aligned with [an investor’s long-term] investing aspirations”.“While our organisation is ‘on board’ with LT investing conceptually, we are struggling to build a new monitoring and guidance framework,” a second respondent added.A third added that “material” regulatory constraints were holding back its attempts to be long-term investors.The view is shared by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has called for a stable regulatory framework to foster long-term investment, including capital commitments to the energy market.“The not-so-good news is that the governance functions of pension organisations are generally still not at the quality level they should be, and there is still a material aspiration/implementation gap in the design and management of long-horizon investment programs,” Ambachtsheer said.Referring to the work in his letter and an upcoming academic paper on the topic, he added: “The silver lining is that neither of these challenges can be addressed without their being first clearly defined and understood.” Pension funds must play their part in driving down the costs of deploying long-term capital, a matter that is reducing the return on investment, according to Keith Ambachtsheer.In the latest Ambachtsheer letter, the director emeritus of the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management extolled the virtue of long-term investing, noting that if humanity had been unable to take a long-term view, it “would still be in subsistence societies of hunters and gatherers”.He said that, even now, there was still “better tomorrows” to be had for those investing for the long term.“But now we live in far more complex societies that suffer from ‘principal/agent’ problems in all three of its important functional dimensions: political, commercial and financial,” he said.