Posts by: Alex DeWaal

The COVID-19 pandemic will, it is feared, bring about the most severe global recession for decades. It will also restructure the global economy. Some of these dynamics are already clear in the U.S., where big corporations with political influence in Washington DC are salivating at the prospect of being able to gobble up a bigger […]

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The memo, “Governance Implications of Epidemic Disease in Africa: Updating the Agenda for COVID-19″ was originally posted by the London School of Economics, as part of the Conflict Research Program. The memo summarises some of what is known about epidemic disease and governance in Africa based on past experience, and poses questions concerning COVID-19.

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At the steepest incline of an epidemic curve, when lives are in danger, when scientific experts calmly insist that the evidence requires that we obey certain commands, and detestable politicians sow confusion for the most nefarious motives—that is the moment to think most carefully.

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Epidemic diseases cause massive human distress and can kill millions across the world. Viruses and disease, in and of themselves, rarely if ever cause conflict or repression. But the policies enacted by states during epidemics—both to try to control disease transmission and for other ulterior purposes—can be a threat to peace, democracy and human rights. We are seeing this across the world today.

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Lockdown can only work if it has the consent of the people who are being locked down. This is not simply a matter of experts telling the public what is best for them, but consulting with communities about the specific risks they face, and the specific measures that would work in those communities.

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Africa’s experience with HIV/AIDS and other epidemic diseases and their (mis)handling shows that consultative and inclusive policymaking is essential for the health of both people and democratic society.

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