Author: Josh Busby (page 2 of 22)

Hagia Sophia and the Multi-Level Politics of Heritage

This is a guest post from Elif Kalaycioglu, who is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama. Her research is on international relations, world order and global governance with a focus on UNESCO’s world heritage regime, global cultural politics and the impact of cultural diversity on the international order and its institutions.

On Friday, June 10th 2020, the highest administrative court in Turkey annulled the 1934 cabinet decree that transformed Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum. UNESCO’s press release, lamented the decision concerning the world heritage site and urged Turkey to protect its universal value as an architectural masterpiece and the symbol of interaction between Europe and Asia. Speaking shortly after the court decision, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that as a mosque, Hagia Sophia will remain the common heritage of humanity in “a much more sincere way.”

This is not the first status change for Hagia Sophia. It began its life as a cathedral in the Byzantine imperium. It was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453. Following the founding of the Turkish Republic, a 1934 cabinet decree transformed it from a mosque to a museum.

This post analyzes the two most recent status changes of Hagia Sophia guided by the key insight of heritage studies that heritage is adjudicated from a present political vision, draws selectively upon the past, and projects this vision into the future. Both status changes entail particular conjunctions of domestic and international political presents. Specifically, Friday’s decision demonstrates and reproduces a long-standing domestic turn away from the Republic’s earlier orientations towards secularization, modernization and the West. Taken in a context of economic woes and policy disillusionment, it reminds Erdogan’s constituency that the country is still on the path to this desirable future. Internationally, it takes place at a time when the universalist visions of the post-WWII order, including that of UNESCO’s world heritage, are under increased strain.

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Forced Marriage: Three Facts to Help Explain This Global Conflict Dynamic

This is a guest post from Phoebe Donnelly (@PhoebsG86), a Visiting Fellow at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University and a Women and Public Policy Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.

The UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) passed without much recognition on June 19. However, CRSV has not disappeared during the global pandemic and victims of different forms of CRSV face additional hurdles to accessing services and support. Certain survivors in particular, those in forced marriages with members of rebel groups, may face even more challenges in escaping cycles of violence because of the ways in which forced marriage binds them to their partners and rebel groups. Due to the increased challenges for survivors of CRSV, it is a useful time to understand one common and less visible form of CRSV: forced marriage. 

My own research on forced marriage finds that rebel groups perpetrate this form of CRSV to help them build their strength and promote their belief systems. Understanding forced marriage is not only essential for understanding CRSV, but also for studying rebel groups strategy, hierarchy, division of labor, and propaganda. Additionally, there is a spectrum of coercion within forced marriages that accounts for the different experiences of wives in rebel groups globally.

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The networks and hidden procedures that keep discrimination alive in academia

This is the third post in our series on Race&IR.

This is a guest post from Carla Norrlöf and Cheng Xu. Carla Norrlöf is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Her research is in international relations and international political economy with a focus on US hegemony, great power politics and liberal international order. Follow here at @CarlaNorrlof

Cheng Xu is a PhD student at the University of Toronto. His research is in international relations and comparative politics with a focus on insurgencies and civil wars. He’s a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces with over nine years of service.

George Floyd’s murder was another in a long series of acts of police brutality against black men. His death upended complacency, silence, and fatigue about racism, propelling people to protest against discrimination in the middle of a deadly pandemic. The Black Lives Matter movement may be the largest in US history.

The conversation about racism has reached academia with hashtags such as #Blackintheivory. This moment has spurred scholars to ask trenchant questions about the links between foreign policy and militarization of police forces. Many scholars have pointed to the racist legacy of IR theory and the way it informs how we study IR today. This dialogue is important and political scientists certainly recognize it as such.

We also see scholars in other disciplines shining a bright light on discriminatory practices, raising questions of how the discipline itself contributes to systemic racism.  They ask white scholars to do their own work to become anti-racist and to stop gaslighting scholars who have the courage to spotlight racist practices.

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Racism in Social Science: Copy, Paste, Repeat (An Urgent Call to Action)

This is the second installment in our series on Race&IR.

This is a guest post from Ebby L. Abramson who is a Doctoral student in the political science program at the University of Ottawa and a research associate and editor for Endangered Scholars Worldwide. His current research systematically investigates counterterrorism policies in Europe and the United States, examining how these policies account for and impact their respective society. Abramson has worked for the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the New School, Cardozo School of law, and The George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs where he specialized in Law of Conflict, International Human Rights Law, terrorism, and illicit arms trafficking. He holds a master’s degree in international affairs from the New School in New York City. He is a contributor to IRPP (Policy Options). Follow him at @EbbyAbramson

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is an ineffective advocacy group because the organization is fighting for an imaginary cause— stopping systemic racism and discrimination against Black people, neither of which exist. The narrative that unarmed Black people are more likely to get shot and killed by the police due to policy brutality is nothing but an overexaggerated delusion. The alleged racism by law enforcement against Black people does not play a role in arresting, shooting, and killing them. These are among the multiple outrageous claims that I have seen in students’ essays and within classroom activities over the course of my career.

I was living in New York City when Eric Garner was murdered on Staten Island, and at that time I wrote an opinion piece pleading with the academic community to take sides. I argued that all academics who stay silent about police brutality against Black people are culpable in perpetuating racism in our society. When I started working toward a doctoral degree at a Canadian university in 2018, I was under the impression that Canada was more progressive and had been taking active steps to address racism—an understanding that faded away in just a few short weeks.

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Modi’s ‘Aggressive’ India has Already Started Making Compromises to China

This is a guest post from Aniruddha Saha, a PhD student at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. His research examines India’s nuclear policy using a constructivist approach and is currently being funded by a King’s International Postgraduate Research Scholarship. He has also recently published with Strategic Analysis, OpenDemocracy, Eurasia Review and The Quint.

With the killing of 20 Indian soldiers by the Chinese army along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) on June 16, several dimensions of the violent border skirmishes between India and China have come to light. Research has shown that the brewing Sino-Indian crisis since early May remains unprecedented ― since at least a decade. More recently, Clary and Narang have argued in ‘War on the Rocks’ that in the backdrop of the current COVID-19 crisis, the response options of the Modi-led Indian government to the Chinese threat “range from bad, to worse, to truly ugly.”

However, the current responses taken by the Indian administration to the crisis seems to contradict the direct confrontational actions that it has recently taken in response to other threats, notably from Pakistan. Therefore, the more pertinent question to ask is: Whether this high degree of apprehension of the Modi government (and the moral compromise of its own retaliatory standards) to deal with the Chinese translates to ‘defeat’ in the absence of a full-blown conventional war?

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COVID-19 Policy Response in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico: Three Different National-Subnational Approaches

This is a guest post from Julie VanDusky-Allen, Olga Shvestova, and Andrei Zhirnov. Julie VanDusky-Allen is an assistant professor at Boise State University. Her research focuses on both formal and informal institutions, legislative organization, political parties, political participation, and support for and satisfaction with democracy. Olga Shvestova is Professor of Political Science and Economics at Binghamton University (SUNY). Professor Shvetsova’s research focuses on determinants of political strategy in the political process. Broadly stated, these include political institutions that define the “rule of the game” and societal characteristics that shape goals and opportunities of the participant players. Andrei Zhirnov is Associate Lecturer in Quantitative Methods in Social Science at the University of Exeter. He received his PhD in Political Science in 2019 from Binghamton University and studies political institutions and electoral systems.

As Latin America has become one of the hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 cases, political leaders are being scrutinized for their responses to the pandemic. While the federal government of Argentina has been praised for its quick and comprehensive response, the Brazilian federal government and the Mexican federal government have been criticized for their lackluster responses.

Yet, to fully understand the COVID-19 policy responses in these countries, we need to look at responses not just at the national level, but also at state level, as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are all federal systems.

To compare the governments’ responses to COVID-19 at the national and subnational levels, we use data from the Global COVID-19 Protective Policy Index (PPI) project at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The PPI measures public health government responses to COVID-19 at all levels of government throughout the world.

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How Unpopular is Bolsonaro? Polling Amid Chaos in Brazil

This is a guest post by Ryan Lloyd, a Visiting Assistant Professor of International Studies at Centre College. His research focuses on comparative political behavior and vote buying, particularly in Brazil. He can be reached at lloydr418@gmail.com, and on Twitter at @Lloyder2323.

Public health and political crises

The numbers were disastrous. After months of denialism, Brazil had just passed Italy into third place for official deaths related to COVID, and was hot on the UK’s tail, with 35,930–more than 1,000 were dying per day. And despite massive undercounting of cases, it was already in second place with 672,846.

So on June 7, President Jair Bolsonaro took drastic action. He told his health ministry to stop counting.

Since then, the Supreme Court has ordered the federal government to release coronavirus data again, and a consortium of media outlets has banded together to release their own figures, collected directly from state health agencies. Brazil has now passed 1 million cases and 50,000 deaths with no end in sight, two health ministers sacked.

The true number, however, is far worse, with the number of cases being underestimated at least sevenfold, and 2.6% of the population having COVID antibodies, with the percentage in some Northern and Northeastern cities reaching 15%-25%, according to a nationwide study conducted by the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. A military officer is the interim health minister, and he has attributed the North and Northeast’s coronavirus woes to the Northern hemisphere’s winter (they are unequivocally not, not least because the North and Northeast are in the Southern hemisphere and the Northern hemisphere is not in winter).

Meanwhile, a political crisis is adding to the country’s woes. After months of brinkmanship with Congress and the Supreme Court, tensions within Bolsonaro’s own cabinet came to a head with the resignation of his popular Minister of Justice, Sérgio Moro. Moro accused Bolsonaro of meddling in an investigation into his family in Rio de Janeiro, which led to investigations by the Supreme Court and the public release of the videotape of a foul-mouthed meeting in which Bolsonaro threatened to replace him if he did not interfere in the investigation.

This has led to protests and counter-protests despite the pandemic, both against Bolsonaro and against the Supreme Court. In the past week, tensions have risen even further, with Fabrício Queiroz, a family friend who has been implicated in a corruption scheme involving Bolsonaro’s son and criminal militias in Rio de Janeiro, being arrested in a dramatic police raid on Bolsonaro’s lawyer’s home.

Bolsonaro’s Popularity

Amid all the excitement, as a president with weak democratic commitments encourages confrontations with the other branches of government, one question rises to the forefront: how much support does Bolsonaro have?

One might imagine that the mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and the economy would have hurt him, much less the political conflicts. But if so, how badly? This is an especially important question given the collision course between Bolsonaro and his rivals: if Bolsonaro disobeys a ruling from the Supreme Court, for instance, will he find support in the streets?

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Domination As a Vocation: Leadership and Covid-19 in India

This is a guest post by Manali Kumar, incoming Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). Her research focuses on prudence in statecraft, and India’s national identities and interests as a rising power. She can be found on Twitter @manalikumar.

Despite one of the strictest nationwide lockdowns in the world, which lasted for 68 days before the government started easing restrictions on 8 June, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to spread in India. Although the country’s international borders remain closed, domestic travel has resumed and shopping malls, restaurants, and places of worship have re-opened. Yet, the number of infections has continued to increase and India now has the fourth-largest number of confirmed cases in the world.

Three major cities – Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai – are the worst affected and together account for more than half of all cases in the country. None of these cities is believed to have reached its peak yet. Meanwhile, stories of people being denied treatment are becoming more common, even as doctors have been warning that the country is on the brink of running out of hospital beds. The central government has devised a policy of patchwork quarantine zones to contain particular outbreak clusters, but many of India’s political leaders have come out strongly in favor of opening up the economy.

Covid Cases in India through July 3, 2020
Source: NDTV

How did India’s situation flip from an initial sense of hope due to quick and decisive action early at the start of the outbreak to one of an impending sense of doom as the pandemic seems all but out of control? As we evaluate outcomes so far and consider how things may evolve in the coming weeks, leadership looms large as an important variable. Here, I draw on Weber’s ‘Politics as a Vocation’ lecture, delivered a hundred years ago, to explore Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership of the coronavirus pandemic in India.

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Decentralization and Pakistan’s response to COVID-19

This is a guest post from Hina Khalid and Ashley Fox. Hina Khalid, PhD, MPP is an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan. Her work focusses on health policy with a special interest in health system performance and health inequities. She can be found on Twitter @HinaaaKh. Ashley Fox, PhD, MA, is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY, who researches the politics of health policy and population health.  She can be found on Twitter @ashfoxly.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic soars to 4.1 million cases, the search to identify the ingredients of a “successful” national response has already begun in earnest. This yearning to categorize and make predictions forces us to assess our priors about what characteristics of states might be likely to produce better or worse than anticipated outcomes. This includes revisiting classical debates around whether more centralized “command and control” states may be better at epidemic control versus more decentralized, flexible forms of governance.

So far, the countries with the seemingly most “successful” responses that have kept the virus contained appear to be more centralized regimes including a number of East Asian countries, Iceland and New Zealand. Certainly, in the case of the US, the decentralized federal structure does not appear to be acting as an asset in this pandemic.  The differential timing of lockdowns and re-opening of the economy will undoubtedly allow the virus to continue to spread even when it has been contained in one locale, especially with the failure to bring testing to scale.  Rather than acting as a unified force, states are being made to compete against each other for emergency resources.

Finding appropriate responses, given resource constraints, is especially important in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan, which are often described as weak or lacking capacity. Pakistan instituted devolution in 2011, including devolving health policy formation, coordination, and implementation to the country’s four provinces. In this post we examine Pakistan’s response to COVID-19 to date, placing it in the perspective of past infectious disease responses and use this to re-examine the question of whether decentralization strengthens or weakens states’ ability to respond to infectious disease threats.

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Beware the “Outside Agitator” Dog Whistle

This is a guest post from Kimberly Turner, a doctoral candidate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Her research focuses on contentious politics, political economy, and street protests.

After a blustery show of force and threat to deploy the military onto American street, President Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric by calling protestors terrorists. For many the past week has been a dizzying escalation in the scope of the protests and the response by governmental officials. This scenario is more akin to what we assume is the response of an authoritarian state and not on the streets of a democracy.

There they would be very wrong. While unusually elevated, the characterization of protestors as criminals and resulting escalation of force is a common tactic deployed by officials in democracies and authoritarian states alike. And it often starts from a common inflection point, when officials begin to depersonalize protestors as outside agitators rather than constituents they are duty bound to serve and protect.

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Revisiting the Fear-Apathy Cycle in Global Health in Light of COVID-19

This is a guest post from Ashley Fox, an Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY.  who researches the politics of health policy and population health.  She can be found on Twitter @ashfoxly.

Since the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, it has spread to nearly every country on the globe, culminating in more than 5.5 million confirmed cases and nearly 350,000 deaths (and counting). Moreover, the epicenter of the outbreak has now migrated from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim to Western Europe and the United States and increasingly now Latin America.

The draconian social distancing measures utilized to bring China’s outbreak under control that many speculated would not be possible to use effectively in the West are now being undertaken under the threat of a health system tsunami. Moreover, the global economy is in a complete tailspin threatening to tack on a global economic crisis to what is already a public health crisis. 

It is now painfully clear that the world collectively underestimated this pathogen and its pandemic potential and that, once again, our containment efforts have been reactive rather than proactive, with deadly consequences. How did an emergent pathogen with a (likely?) 1% case fatality rate manage to bring civilization to its knees in a matter of months? What happened to the lessons learned from SARS, MERS, Ebola, and other recent pandemics that had resulted in promising reforms to pandemic preparedness?

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Democracy (still) on the Edge: An Analysis of Brazil’s Political Response to the Covid-19 Crisis

This is a guest post from Matthew B. Flynn, André Pereira Neto, and Letícia Barbosa.

Matthew B. Flynn is an Associate Professor of International Studies and Sociology at Georgia Southern University. His work focuses on pharmaceutical policies in Brazil, the immigration detention complex throughout the world, and the intersections between globalization and global health.

André Pereira Neto is a full professor at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil, where he coordinates the Internet, Health and Society Laboratory (LaISS) and teaches at the graduate program in Information and Communication in Health. Most recently, he co-edited an anthology Internet and Health in Brazil: Trends and Challenges with Matthew B. Flynn.

Letícia Barbosa is a PhD candidate at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. Her thesis aims to identify how health information circulates among breast cancer patients in online and offline settings. She also has experience researching the emergence of the expert patient, online health information and patient empowerment and virtual ethnography in online health communities.

Brazil’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic ranks as the worst of all the countries around the world. This is surprising, especially given its past experiences in fighting infectious disease and in light of the existence of a national public health system, known as the Unified Public Health System, or SUS in Portuguese, that provides public and free health services from preventive care to medical assistance. Why has Brazil fallen so far behind in confronting the novel coronavirus?

Any discussion about Brazil’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic must start with the country’s far-right populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, including his worldview and rise to power amidst increasing political polarization.

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COVID-19 is accelerating the power transition between the U.S. and China

This is a guest post from Collin Meisel and Jonathan D. Moyer.

Collin Meisel (Twitter: @collinmeisel) is a Research Associate at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. At Pardee, Collin works with the Diplometrics team to analyze international relations and build long-term bilateral forecasts for topics such as trade, migration, and international governmental organization membership.

Jonathan D. Moyer (Twitter: @moyerjonathan) is Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures. For the last 15 years, Jonathan has used long-term, integrated policy analysis and forecasting methods to inform the strategic planning efforts of governments, international organizations, and corporations around the world, including sponsors such as USAID, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and the UN Development Programme.

As COVID-19 disrupts life the world over, many of the pandemic’s long-term consequences remain uncertain. However, using multiple long-term forecast scenarios, one geopolitical consequence is beginning to come into focus: COVID-19 is accelerating the transition in power between the U.S. and China. Despite assertions from political scientist Barry Posen that COVID-19 “is weakening all of the great and middle powers more or less equally,” economic and mortality projections suggest that China will see material gains relative to the U.S. that could translate into broader geopolitical gains.

Quantified in terms of the distribution of relative material capabilities, China’s forecasted gains are roughly the magnitude of the current relative global capabilities of Turkey.

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The World Health Organization already has a review mechanism: here’s how it works and how it can be better

This is a guest post from Dr. Joshua R. Moon is a Research Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, researching biomedical research global health security policy. This post is based upon his PhD research, and further investigation into UN SGM Reports. Josh can also be found via his Research & Twitter

Donald Trump’s withholding of WHO funding, pending an independent review of WHO’s activities in the COVID-19 pandemic, has been lambasted around the world (some examples here, here, and here). In response, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “In due course WHO’s performance in tackling this pandemic will be reviewed by WHO’s Member States and the independent bodies that are in place to ensure transparency and accountability … This is part of the usual process put in place by our member states.” This seems to be alluding to the WHO’s IHR Review Committee, a body which is enshrined in international law and is composed of independent experts.

On top of this, a proposal from more than 50 member states at the ongoing 73rd World Health Assembly calls for “in consultation with Member States, a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms,  as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.” This explicitly calls for the use of an IHR Review Committee in the text of the agenda item. The key questions are what is this mechanism, how does it work, and how can it provide the accountability and learning opportunity that Dr. Tedros seems to be referring to?

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Thoughts on Political Science in a Time of Plague

This is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. You can follow him at his blog at Democracy in Dark Times.

The coronavirus has thrown the entire world into a terrifying crisis that challenges public health and the very possibility of normal social interaction.

If ever there were a time when scholarly research and relevant knowledge were needed, it is now. Public officials and journalists have clamored for new scientific and medical research, and universities and university-based scholars have answered the call.

And yet, while our situation presents not simply a crisis of public health but a crisis of public life itself, the demand for relevant scientific knowledge is strangely silent about the contributions of political science.

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What We Know About Political Leadership and Pandemics

This is a guest post from Robert L. Ostergard, Jr., an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno – follow him on twitter @RobertOstergard

History sometimes has a way of rearing its ugly head repeatedly. The COVID-19 pandemic is something few people have ever seen, but it is not new in history. Neither is the fragmented nor uneven and missing policy responses to it. How political leaders respond during the initial stages of pandemics can affect their trajectory and duration.

Research from political science, public health, and government agencies shows that political leadership at the executive level generally serves three critical functions in combatting pandemics: mitigating risk, framing the collective problem, and providing direction and purpose for a plan to battle the virus. 

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Too Soon for a Coronavirus Commission

This is a guest post from Erik Dahl, an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and the author of Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond (Georgetown, 2013). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Naval Postgraduate School or the U.S. Department of Defense.   

As many parts of the United States begin to slowly reopen amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, there are increasing calls in Congress and from emergency management experts for a national commission to examine how well we were prepared for, and responded to, the global crisis. Congressional committees are beginning to hold hearings about the pandemic, including testimony expected soon from Dr. Anthony Fauci, and pressure will likely build for a more extensive investigation. Supporters argue that a commission is needed in the same way national investigations in the wake of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 helped us understand how those disasters could have happened. 

Just as with those previous cases, such an effort will be needed eventually to help the country heal from the current crisis. But history suggests it is too early now to begin that process, because early efforts to investigate national calamities tend to produce more heat than light.    

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Will Covid-19 reshape government-NGO relations? Observations from India

This is a guest post from Suparna Chaudhry, incoming Assistant Professor of International Affairs at Lewis & Clark College. Her research focuses on human rights, international law, and political violence, with a focus on state persecution of NGOs. She can be found on Twitter @SuparnaChaudhry.

On March 24, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a three-week national lockdown on India’s 1.3 billion people. Domestic and international air travel, passenger trains, interstate buses and metro services were all suspended. State borders were sealed and states had to ensure, “no movement of people across cities or on highways.” The lockdown has since been extended twice, most recently on May 1, when the government announced its continuation until at least May 17.

While the latest announcement relaxed movement restrictions in districts relatively unscathed by Covid-19, a large part of the population, including all major cities, remain in the severely-hit red zones under complete lockdown. What have been the effects of the lockdown? What role have non-state actors played, in particular non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in Covid-19 containment and relief efforts? What challenges do these groups face from the state and how might the pandemic influence state-NGO dynamics?

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Bridging the Gap in National Security Studies

This is a guest post from Paul Johnson, who is an operations research analyst with the US Army. His personal research ranges on topics from political violence and militias to security force loyalty and design.  The views expressed here do not represent the perspective of the US Army or Department of Defense.

Given this forum’s focus as an outlet helping bridge the gap, this post discusses ways that academics working on national security-related topics can make themselves and their work more accessible to potential end-users, as seen and experienced from the author’s perspective as a national-security practitioner.

A Wide Variety of Vital Contributions

Previous articles on this topic (e.g., see here and here) have pointed out a variety of contributions that scholars can make to applied work, including:

  • Theory, which provides an idea of how to view an emerging event or string of events, helping users “see the forest for the trees.”  From an analytical perspective, being able to point to a solid body of social-science literature backing up a framework — especially a literature with fairly settled empirical findings — increases the credibility of that framework for application to real-world problems.
  • Data, which may be quantitative or qualitative.  Publically accessible social science datasets often find their way into analytical usage in national-security settings as the best available data on a topic of interest.  Similarly, the perspective of area specialists, also known as subject matter experts (or “smees”), on a given country or set of countries can provide highly valued information.
  • Forecasts, which can be as simple as a most-likely-outcome statement.  Bonus points for willingness to take a stab at a probability point-estimate for that statement, and more points for being explicit about uncertainty.
  • Advice about what to do in a given real-world situation.  Since most empirical scholars focus on establishing ceteris-paribus relationships across a large number of cases, practicing applying that work to a specific case usually requires a bit of a mindset shift, but adopting that mindset is necessary for any applied work.
  • Analytical methodology, which finds its way into applied work through a variety of means. Some of these means include PhD students being hired into federal government, ongoing professionalization for current civil-servant analysts, and academics working as government contractors or other forms of participation on a per-project basis.
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Responses to COVID-19 in South Africa: The centrality of food security

This is a guest post from Kurt Ackermann, a civil society leader in South Africa who works through urban social agriculture to strengthen community resilience in cities. He is executive manager and co-founder of The SA Urban Food & Farming Trust and an associate at the Global Risk Governance Programme at the University of Cape Town.

COVID-19 in South Africa has followed a trajectory atypical of any other nation. For speculated but still uncertain reasons the country managed to flatten its curve dramatically, with one of the world’s strictest lockdowns likely to have played a major role. This included no freedom of movement for exercise, no sales of alcohol, cigarettes or hot prepared food, a ban on travel for funerals, a requirement for all businesses to register and be approved for a permit to operate as an essential service, police roadblocks checking for permits and the illicit transport of unauthorised goods, and more. The disease continues to spread, but slowly and without throwing the nation’s health care system into crisis.

However, the slowed course of the pandemic and severity of the lockdown have amplified pre-existing stresses arising primarily from the staggering level of inequality that has, in fact, worsened since the end of apartheid 26 years ago. Most prominent among these stresses has been a crisis of hunger.

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