Category: Health (page 1 of 5)

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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The United States: Not a Failed State, but a Failing Society

Note: This post began life as an op-ed; I have amended it slightly from the version shared on Facebook to add more social scientific perspective.

The United States set new single-day record for new COVID cases on June 24th through 26th, surpassing what had been hoped would the highest point of the curve on April 24. The United States is now in a two-horse race with Brazil to be the epicenter of the COVID pandemic. The economic and social sacrifices made to attempt to flatten the curve—sacrifices that include the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and school closures that will have lifelong consequences for student outcomes—from March to May have essentially been rendered completely moot.

This has many observers saying the United States is a failed state. George Packer argued this in the Atlantic. Chinese state media has leveled similar claims. 

The United States is not a failed state. It is something much more disturbing: it is a society that has the means but has decided not to try.

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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 June 28, 2020
Source: New York Times

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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Borders, Blinders, and Mental Maps: Assessing Scenario Analysis in Light of Covid-19

This post is part of the Bridging the Gap channel at the Duck. Danielle Gilbert is a PhD candidate in political science and a fellow with the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at the George Washington University. She serves as a New Era Fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project. Rachel Whitlark is an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She serves as a New Era Fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project.

In 1701, a cartographer named Herman Moll produced a map entitled “The Isle of California: New Mexico: Louisiane: The River Misisipi: and the Lakes of Canada.” Glance at this image, and you will notice the exaggerated size of Florida, condensed Great Plains, and presence of a Gulf of California fully separating the state from the rest of the country. How might such a map have been drawn?

The apocryphal story goes something like this: In the 1600s, a first set of explorers arrived in California via Baja. Trekking north, they soon encountered non-navigable waters. A second set of explorers started at the north end of the territory, journeying south through the Straits of Juan de Fuca; they too encountered water they could not pass. Putting together the explorers’ reports, the mapmakers in Amsterdam connected the dots, and the Island of California appeared.

Years later, a third group of explorers sought to cross the Gulf and explore the land beyond. They arrived, fully prepared with long boats in tow. But of course, instead of water, they encountered the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crossing was merciless, and most of the explorers died. Those who survived shared their discovery with the mapmaker. “Well,” he replied, “the map can’t be wrong; you must have been in the wrong place!”

This tale illustrates our very human blinders. We have outsized confidence in what’s familiar (Florida) and pay less attention to what isn’t (the Plains); we extrapolate from existing knowledge to project into the unknown. And when faced with contradictory evidence, our entrenched models and maps remain difficult to overturn.

For the last 15 years, we at the Bridging the Gap Project (BTG) have used this story to introduce scenario analysis as a central piece of our New Era Workshop for PhD students. During the workshop, two dozen graduate students in political science, history, and related disciplines are presented with thematic, global scenarios, unfolding five to ten years in the future. Through analyzing these scenarios and probing the challenges and opportunities presented by plausible future worlds, our participants shed their “mental maps” to pose questions about future-oriented policy and research questions. BTG directors and fellows have previously written about this exercise—an innovative method for generating novel, policy-relevant research questions.

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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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WHO’s to Blame? Coronavirus and the Politics of Blame Shifting

The following is a guest post by Isabella Alcañiz and Timothy Hellwig. Isabella Alcañiz is Associate Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. Her research interests include climate inequality, disaster policy, the state in the global south, and Latin American politics. She is author of Environmental and Nuclear Networks in the Global South: How Skills Shape International Cooperation (2016, Cambridge). Timothy Hellwig is Professor of Political Science and Academic Director of the Europe Gateway at Indiana University.  He is a team member of the Executive Approval Project and coauthor of Democracy Under Siege? Parties, Voters, and Elections After the Great Recession (forthcoming, Oxford).

Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut US funding to the World Health Organization and eventually leave the institution. The opening salvo of Trump’s war against the United Nations agency in charge of global public health came a month ago, when the American president first stopped paying US dues. To many, Trump’s escalating threats to the very organization tasked with monitoring, evaluating, and communicating global health risks during the coronavirus pandemic is equivalent to dismissing the generals on the way into battle. The move has left the United States further isolated in the international arena, with key European allies declaring their support of the UN agency.  

Trump maintains that the WHO’s response during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis justified his unprecedented move. The WHO, he claims, failed to acknowledge reports of the virus out of Wuhan, China in late 2019 even though there was yet to be substantiated evidence to the effect. Rather, the WHO began monitoring the situation in the Chinese province once the first public reports about a novel coronavirus surfaced and issued early guidance about contact protection shortly after the first of the year. In his letter breaking up with the organization, Trump also accused the international organization of showering praise on China and accepting its coronavirus-related data without question. However, this charge is not based on evidence and, given Trump’s own approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the pandemic, rings hollow. 

The threat to halt funding permanently to the world’s pre-eminent public health agency during a public health crisis appears highly reckless. Trump’s actions, however, are more strategic than they first seem.

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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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Coronavirus, Communal Violence, and the Politics of Rivalry in India and Pakistan

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Radziszewski, Assistant Professor at Rider University and author of forthcoming book Private Militaries and Security Industry in Civil Wars: Competition and Market Accountability (Oxford University Press) and Jonathan M. DiCicco, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Middle Tennessee State University and a Senior Fellow with the TransResearch Consortium.

While the world has been coping with the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic, India and Pakistan have experienced the worst cross-border fighting in two years. Unfortunately, this fight is not against the virus. Instead, it is a continuation of the two enemies’ rivalry over Kashmir, a disputed territory each claims as its own.

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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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Journal Submissions in Times of COVID-19: Is There A Gender Gap?

The following is a post by ISA journal editors Krista Wiegand (International Studies Quarterly), Debbie Lisle (International Political Sociology), Amanda Murdie (International Studies Review), and James Scott (International Studies Perspectives).

There has been a lot of talk in academia about the many negative consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has generated, ranging from declining enrollments, inability to travel for field research or conferences, and research productivity working from home. As editors of the International Studies Association (ISA) journals, we started noticing some new trends in submissions as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated. First, submission rates were up for almost all the ISA journals. When we checked the submission rates from March 13 – the average date that most universities shifted to online classes – to May 4 this year, compared to the same time period last year, most of the journals had a higher number of submissions, ranging from a 17% to 343% increase compared to the same time period last year. However, we also noticed that submission rates by female scholars were down — at least proportionally — in most of the journals. When we compared the submission rates by women to “normal” times, we saw a clear decline. For example, in International Studies Perspectives, the proportion of submitted manuscripts including at least one female co-author declined by over 19% compared to the same time period last year. 

This trend in increased submissions does not appear to be unique to ISA journals; we know from social media that several IR and political science journals have seen an uptick in submission numbers since mid-March. The editors of Comparative Political Studies and American Journal of Political Science noticed the trends as well. Outside of political science and international studies, other academic fields have started highlighting the same trends, getting attention in mainstream media like The Guardian. In economics, one study found that the productivity of women and mid-career faculty, as measured by submission of recent working-papers, was disproportionately down during lockdown. There have been similar discussions about women’s reduced productivity in journal submissions in the sciences. 

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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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Apart, Together: The separate worlds of Covid-19 beliefs

The following is a guest post by Dr. Leah Windsor. Dr. Windsor is a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems at The University of Memphis where she directs the Languages Across Cultures and Languages Across Modalities labs. From 2014-2019 served as PI for a Department of Defense Minerva Initiative grant, using computational linguistics to analyze political communication in international relations.

Why are we seeing an uptick in discussions about non-mainstream theories about the origin and spread of Covid-19? In my recent social media feeds, I have noticed more skeptical discussions about the pandemic, and it’s a struggle to know how to respond. On the one hand, I know that emotions are strong – even predictive – influences on our choices. When we believe something, it is a part of us. Telling us that our facts are wrong is equivalent to telling us that we are wrong – that our reasoning, beliefs, and decision-making processes are wrong.

What we believe is a part of us, which helps explain why when confronted with contradictory evidence, people tend to double down on what they already believe rather than integrating the new information into their beliefs and thinking. So if I respond to a social media post with information that counters a friend or family member’s current beliefs, it’s more likely they will believe that I am wrong, or the outlier, than their current beliefs. It’s hard, even existentially dangerous, to question the beliefs we hold dear.

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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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When norms collide: The COVID-19 pandemic and difficult choices on the hierarchy of norms and values

This is a guest post from Sassan Gholiagha, Anna Holzscheiter, and Andrea Liese. They are currently working together on a project on norm collisions in global politics funded by the German Research Foundation. Sassan is a postdoctoral researcher at the WZB Berlin. He has worked on norms, the Responsibility to Protect, and drones. Anna holds the chair for political science with a  focus on international politics at the TU Dresden and heads the research group on Governance of Global Health at the WZB. Her areas of interest are children rights, discourse analysis, and global health. Andrea holds the chair for International Organizations and Policies at the University of Potsdam. Her areas of interest are international organizations, international norms, and international human rights policy.

Politics, as famously defined by David Easton, is the “authoritative allocation of values”, such as welfare, security, and liberty. Politicians thus have to weigh these values against each other in cases in which they collide. Four months into the current pandemic, we are able to observe a growing awareness for norm collisions between the right to life and well-being associated with COVID-19 on the one hand and a broad array of other norms. In this post, we will discuss the politics surrounding COVID-19 as being, fundamentally, about difficult decisions on hierarchies between norms in cases where they collide.

Norm Collisions and Norm Hierarchies

What happens to previous norm balances in a case of emergency or a case, where the right to life is prioritized over other values? During the past weeks, states have interfered with freedom of religion and prohibited churches, synagogues, and mosques to conduct their services in order to protect public and individual health. To slow down the spread of the virus, schools have been closed in 191 countries around the world, with  nearly 1.6 billion of pupils out of school. For a lucky portion of pupils in more developed countries this new norm prioritization means ‘just’ long-distance learning by digital classroom. For millions of others, it simply means no education at all, as they lack a quiet place to study or lack digital infrastructure and equipment. Their right to education is without doubt violated.

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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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