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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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
A Wide Variety of
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a guest post from Sean D. Ehrlich, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida State University who researches international and comparative political economy, trade policy, and democratic institutions. His first book, Access Points, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011 and his second book, The Politics of Fair Trade, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. He can be found on Twitter @SeanDEhrlich.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the European Union, the EU itself has been relatively inactive, leaving it up to the member states to address the medical crisis and its economic and social consequences. Largely, this is by design, as public health issues were intentionally left to national discretion.
Where the EU has taken action, it has been limited and
technocratic such as pooling money for joint ventilator
purchases and funding vaccine research cross-nationally. The one exception has
been the European Central Bank, which has taken major steps by
injecting over €750 billion into the economy through quantitative easing to
support the region’s economies.
Otherwise, what the EU has not done is offer any European-wide fiscal stimulus or aid for countries that implement their own policies. While the EU does not have ready mechanisms to do much of this, they do have tools like the European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM) to lend money to countries that have increasing debt which was developed to address the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis that started in 2008. However, though negotiations are ongoing and a preliminary deal has been struck, the members of the EU have yet to agree on a final plan to use the ESM.
This is a guest post
Yeo, who is an Associate Professor of Politics at The Catholic University
of America in Washington DC and a Fulbright Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Political
Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His most recent books
include Asia’s Regional Architecture: Alliances and
Institutions in the Pacific Century and North Korean Human Rights: Activists and Networks (with
As a US scholar on research leave in Manila, I’ve been following the COVID-19 response in both the Philippines and the United States closely. I was bemused last weekend reading headlines about anti-quarantine protestors in several US state capitals, and the outrage geared at (what I presume to be) mostly Trump supporters in risking the further spread of the coronavirus.
Having experienced a different reality here, I’ve pondered the pros and cons of stricter quarantine enforcement as we have seen in the Philippines. Would either country envisage the imposition of martial law, a growing concern among some in Manila as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) boost their presence?
This is a guest post from Emily Meierding, who is an Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Her book, The Oil Wars Myth: Petroleum and the Causes of International Conflict, has just been published by Cornell University Press. The views expressed here do not represent the perspective of the US Navy or Department of Defense.
The global oil market has entered uncharted territory. On
Monday, the price of WTI crude, the US oil benchmark, went negative for the
first time in history, closing at -$37 per barrel.
What happened? And what does it mean for international petroleum politics?
Two factors drove the oil price collapse: market
fundamentals and the quirks of oil futures trading.
Market fundamentals—oil supply and demand—were the proximate
cause of the price collapse. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this
year, global oil demand has dropped by twenty to thirty percent. In the United
States, consumption of petroleum productions has fallen thirty-one
percent since January.
This is a guest post from Annick T.R. Wibben is Anna Lindh Professor of Gender, Peace & Security at the Swedish Defence University. Her research straddles critical security and military studies, peace studies, international theory, and feminist international relations. Her books include Feminist Security Studies: A Narrative Approach (Routledge, 2011), Researching War: Feminist Methods, Ethics & Politics (Routledge, 2016), and Teaching Peace and War: Pedagogy and Curricula with Amanda Donahoe (Routledge, 2019).
The effects of COVID-19 are invariably exacerbated by
existing inequalities; those already in crisis on the margins of (global) society,
whether as a result of wars, colonial legacies or current economic priorities,
are disproportionally dying. We can see this clearly in the first sets of
disaggregated data coming out of the US/ UK – already underprivileged regions,
classes, races, especially when these intersect with age, are disproportionally
The widely-adopted policy of social
distancing is a policy of privilege. Social distancing is not possible for
those who are incarcerated
in crowded prisons or trapped
in camps, whether at
the edges of Europe and the
U.S., in Bangladesh
in the world, displaced by war and environmental devastation. It is not
achievable for those whose
survival depends on being in close proximity to others or whose obligations
to others mean they have to go “out there”. At the same time, strong community
support and solidarity is key to survival for many, and social distancing
itself can be the cause of new deaths.
will affect women and girls differently on a variety of levels, both
because of the already existing devastating impact of domestic violence which
during lockdowns, and because they are doing much of the crucial caring
labor at home and in their communities.
This is a guest post from Jiun Bang, PhD (University of Southern
California, political science and international relations), currently a
visiting scholar at the Korean Studies Institute at USC.
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, cities have been
making the news, from the harrowing daily struggles of New York City with COVID-19
to President Trump’s erroneous
estimate of Seoul’s population of ‘38 million’ [more like just shy of 10
million]. I happened to listen to Dr. Robert T. Yanagisawa, MD
and Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and
Co-Director of the Mount Sinai Global Health Program in Japan, talk about the
bond between New York City and Tohoku (Japan) based on the ‘9/11 to
3/11 Survivor Exchange Program,’ which references the attacks
of September 11, 2011 and the Fukushima disaster of March 11, 2011. According to Dr. Yanagisawa, there are plans
by Japanese medical students to send N95 medical masks to Mount Sinai hospital
in New York.
All this got me thinking about the concept of paradiplomacy:
diplomacy by sub-state political units, including cities. As a big fan of
diplomacy and one who often laments the lack of appreciation for both the
practice and discourse of diplomacy by mainstream IR, I thought I would introduce
paradiplomacy—especially between cities—and its potential applications for the
ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, Sofia Fenner wrote a terrific post for us on comparative responses to COVID19, focusing on regime type, state capacity, leadership, and civil society response.
Mark Leon Goldberg interviewed her for UN Dispatch to talk about the piece and further reflections. Embedded below.
This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven (PhD) who teaches International Relations and Foreign Policy at Carleton University, Canada. His work has been published in Security Dialogue, European Journal of International Relations, and Journal of Global Security Studies, among others. He is the editor (with Mira Sucharov) of Methodology and Emotion in International Politics: Parsing the Passions (Routledge, 2019).
around the world grapple with the Covid-19 crisis several are reaching for the
metaphor of war to convey the urgency and gravity surrounding the
There are obvious
advantages to this strategy.
Historically, the language of war has functioned as a powerful mechanism
for collective mobilization and emergency action. It can suspend partisanship, free government
agencies of burdensome rules, and activate extraordinary powers on behalf of
the executive. Even more, it can revive
memories of shared sacrifice—as in World War 2—which can serve as inspiration
and even comfort in uncertain times.
At the same time
the war metaphor comes with a number of risks.
One problem is that it risks positioning militaries as the leading
responders to the Covid-19 crisis. As
academics studying the securitization of AIDS/HIV have noted, this can lead to limited resources being diverted
from public health systems and towards the military.
This is a guest post from Ben Bellows, PhD (UC Berkeley, epidemiology), currently a researcher at the Population Council in Washington DC and a co-founder and the Chief Business Officer at Nivi Inc., a digital health company empowering consumers in emerging markets. Nivi is supporting the COVID-19 response here.
Disease outbreaks are as much a social phenomenon as a biological one. Rumor, innuendo, and public sentiment drive disease transmission dynamics. Covid-19 is no different; the fact checking website, Snopes.com, has a dedicated “covid-19” tag to run the equivalent of public health containment and mitigation on misinformation.
As the World Health Organization reported 2nd February, this pandemic, similar to past epidemics like SARS in 2003 when the term was coined, risks spawning an “infodemic” that exacerbates disease control and treatment efforts (e.g. there is no high quality evidence that hydroxychloroquine leads to significant improvements in COVID-19 outcomes, drinking hot water will not kill the virus, and this video does not show mass COVID-19 graves in Italy).
Drawing lessons from the 2013-16 West
Africa Ebola epidemic, we already see health authorities trying to balance
centralized mechanisms to promote consistent and high quality messaging with
decentralized programmatic communication that is flexible and adaptable to
local needs, as Gillespie and colleagues recommended post-Ebola.
As a part of the global response, on March 20th, the WHO and Facebook launched a WhatsApp chat bot and resource page to improve information quality, allowing anyone with access to WhatsApp to learn more about coronavirus and receive updates. This proactive strengthening of health authority messaging pairs well with effective efforts to weaken transmission of misinformation on social media platforms (e.g. YouTube has a 24-hour incident-response team to remove misinformation and Facebook partnered with the International Fact Checking Network awarding grants to fact check Coronavirus misinformation).
National governments and corporate partners have also launched digital messaging services including in India, Kenya, and South Africa. These messaging services, and similar web platforms the US CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker, convey consistent and vetted health information intended to inform citizens and empower healthy decisions.
Next phase in pandemic response
Anticipating the next step in the
COVID-19 response, digital health companies are launching consumer-facing
COVID-19 messaging for specific populations. One company that I co-founded in
2016, Nivi, began to develop messaging after noticing
an uptick of in-bound questions from its users.