What we’re reading on governance & conflict – COVID-19 edition, 3 April

Week 2 of our special ‘What we’re reading’ email focused on emerging thinking on Covid-19 and the potential implications and insights from a governance and conflict perspective. DFID Research & Evidence Division -funded research teams designated with a 🌟. The list is compiled with my DFID colleague Alisha Patel and includes contributions sent in by colleagues as well.

Lots of new pieces on this week’s edition, with some clear themes starting to emerge (authoritarianism, informal settlements, elites, organised crime and so on). What’s not always emerging, though, is consensus around what’s happening and what the implications may be, so a lot of scope for synthesis and analysis in the weeks to come.

Stay safe, everyone.

Threads/News/Blogs/Thought pieces/Research

Naomi Hossain & Mick Moore, Elites, poverty & development (WDR 2000/1 background paper) 🌟

I’m (Heather) kicking off with this paper, because the more I think about the impacts of this crisis on governance and conflict, the more incensed I become about the actions of elites, and the more I come back to ground-breaking research by Naomi, Mick and others (including this paper I co-authored with Chipiliro Kalebe-Nyamongo on Malawi). This is something we need to be paying a lot of attention to now…more to come on this.

Dulue Mbachu, Trapped by Coronavirus, Nigeria’s elite faces squalid hospitals

More elite-focused analysis, this time from Nigeria, and how elites are now having to live with the consequences of lack of investment in public health systems.

Heather Marquette, Wavering between optimism and pessimism: Covid-19, corruption and organised crime 🌟

Personal as well as professional reflections about the ways in which Covid-19 is a critical juncture that should (will?) force us to address the financial systems that enable grand corruption to persist while also thinking about the ways in which petty corruption and organised crime may flourish.

Simon Allison, The Covid-19 pandemic is a wildcard that will change politics as we know it

This brilliant piece interrogates how political elites from around the world are using coronavirus to serve their own political purposes – and the various ways in which this can be done. Critically, what happens after Covid-19 ends? Will these temporary measures be reversed?

Phil Amis, Increasing segregation? Impact of Covid-19 in the cities of Africa and South Asia

Important points here about how colonial histories impact on social distancing & policing, as well as how much rides on community groups (good social capital), criminal groups (bad social capital) & local/municipal government.

Diana Mitlin, Dealing with Covid-19 in the towns and cities of the global South 🌟

Diana identifies a number of risks that people living in informal settlements face, setting out some urgent recommendations while also arguing for more attention to be paid now to governance issues and underlying social contracts.

Rachel Locke, Fragility and pandemics: finding the right equation to steer action

Locke questions whether we have the right lenses to look at Covid-19 and fragility, where high levels of inequality have exposed fragile cracks in high income countries.

Sara Pantuliano, Covid-19: ‘we won’t get back to normal because normal was the problem’

While most of us are likely to have said ‘I can’t wait for things to get back to normal’ at some point, Sara looks at  how Covid-19 is showing that for many people ‘normal’ wasn’t good enough and why it’s dangerous to pretend it was.

Stefano Betti, Public health and organised crime: preventing future outbreaks

Betti looks at the many ways in which organised crime has undermined health systems around the world and at what can be done to stop ‘business as usual’.

Terence Wood, What will Covid-19 mean for the Pacific: a problem in 4 parts

Though this is Pacific-oriented, the 4 parts will resonate everywhere: the disease itself, health systems, the economic ramifications and conflict.

Mark Weston, Coronavirus reaches Sudan, one of the countries least equipped to cope with it

While numbers in Sudan are still low (at the time or writing), Weston looks at the reasons – technical and political – why Sudan is unlikely to be able to cope with an epidemic.

Jessie Banfield, Covid-19: Building a more peaceful world from a global crisis

This piece from International Alert also argues why we can’t return to ‘normal’ after the crisis if we hope to build a more peaceful world.

Richard Behar, Organised crime in the time of corona

This report from the FT pulls together emerging evidence and analysis around the world showing many different ways organised crime is adapting successfully to the crisis.

Angela Giuffrida & Lorenzo Tondo, Singing stops in Italy as fear and social unrest mount

While all of Italy is suffering, this article looks at the impacts on poorer regions and how organised crime groups are already starting to take advantage.

Azeem Azhar, The three cleavages shaping the post-pandemic order

Some big issues facing geopolitics are explored here including, for example, East vs West and young vs old, and how these may unfold post-crisis.

Shashi Tharoor & Samir Saran, The new world disorder

Drawing on their book The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative (published early in 2020), Tharoor and Saran look at the existing cracks in global governance that Covid-19 is making even more visible and argue why Indian leaders should resist the urge to close the country off from international cooperation.

Talking Politics, From cholera to coronavirus

Podcast with historian Richard Evans about the cholera epidemics in the 19th century and how these led to elites investing in public goods, such as sewers and – sitting right behind Whitehall – Embankment.

Gavi, How do we stop the spread of a pandemic in a slum?

There’s nothing technically wrong with the suggested interventions here, but it’s not clear how recommendations like ‘ramp up health system strengthening measures’ are feasible in the weeks – at best – we have, nor how this will be done from a political perspective.

Martina Bedetti, Organised crime and Covid-19

Looking at the Italian case, Bedetti looks at ‘crisis mafia syndicates’ and how they’re likely to take advantage of first stage Covid-19 crisis responses that then set them up well post-crisis.

Prem Mahadevan, The socio-economic impact of Covid-19 in India: a comparison with the Black Death

From the search for scapegoats to class politics, Mahadevan draws comparisons between the Black Death in the 14th century and the socio-economic context in India fighting Covid-19 today.

Francis Fukuyama, The thing that determines a country’s resistance to the coronavirus

Fukuyama argues that the dividing line isn’t democracy vs authoritarian but is, instead, trust.

Simukai Chigudu, From cholera to corona: the politics of plague in Africa

Lessons from Simukai’s excellent recent book on the 2008-2009 cholera crisis in Zimbabwe. Trust also comes through as an important factor, sadly missing in Zimbabwe (and many other places).

 Mark Shaw & Tuesday Reitano, Covid-19: Strengthening civil society in a time of unprecedented change and undermine criminal governance

Based on Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s long-standing experience, Mark and Tuesday offer 3 do’s and 1 important don’t.

Deutsche Welle, Mali: Legislative elections hampered by low voter turnout?

We may focus on those elections that may be postponed, but what happens when elections take place and turnout is painfully low? Mali’s recent elections saw just a 7.5% turnout. What does Covid-19 mean for the democratic process? Will people be happy with the result, and if not, how can protest take place amidst lockdown?

Robert Yates, Let’s emerge from Covid-19 with stronger health systems

Yates makes the case for leaders to see this as an opportunity to emerge as national heroes if they grasp the opportunity to build stronger health systems for the future.

Matt Andrews, Public Leadership Through Crisis 11: Reorganising to address the crisis

Matt has done a whole really useful series of blogs on leadership and adaptive management for organisations during a crisis like COVID-19.

Bel Trew, ‘People don’t realise what’s coming’: how a coronavirus crisis would unfold in war-torn Syria, Yemen or Libya

Through interviews with doctors and humanitarian workers, Trew shows a devastating picture of 3 countries that are likely to be too war ravaged to cope.

U4, Corruption in the time of COVID-19: A double threat for low income countries

U4 have pulled together a helpful piece looking at different angles in which corruption and related issues (illicit finance, crime, capture, authoritarianism) may play out during the pandemic response. They’ve also tracked a few of the instances where this is already happening around the world.

NY Times, As virus spreads, China and Russia see openings for disinformation

A chilling and stark reminder that the disinformation war doesn’t abate during a global pandemic – here is how Covid-19 has been weaponised by authoritarian governments to deflect public criticism of their domestic policies.

Temitayo Fagbule, Covid-19 lays bare the political leadership deficit in Nigeria

Tough questions being asked of Nigeria’s leaders, their responsibility for its poor health system and its political culture of ‘anyhow-ness’.

Yomi Kazeem, Coronavirus is forcing Nigeria’s leaders to confront the broken healthcare system they rarely use

Amid the playful twitter conversations, this piece interrogates what many African presidents will do when they have no choice but to rely on domestic healthcare sessions – and what the impact may (or may not) be for health systems.

Laura Berlingozzi, Displacement in the time of corona: life fragments of IDPs in Mali and Niger, among intercommunal violence and armed groups proliferation

In a week filled with some pretty depressing reading, this one may top the list. For communities who have been in effect already abandoned by the international community, Berlingozzi looks at how the Covid-19 crisis could be ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ for poor communities in the Sahel.

Aly Verjee, Four lessons from outbreaks in Africa for the age of coronavirus

Useful lessons pulled from evidence spanning several different outbreaks.

Jeeyon Kim, Daniel Maxwell and Sabina Robillard, COVID-19 compromises social networks. What this means for people in humanitarian crisis

This piece looks at social network analysis and examines what the breakdown of social networks can mean in a humanitarian setting.

Richard Black, Dealing with coronavirus: how can we learn from Africa’s experience?

Drawing on personal reflections from his work during the ebola crisis, Richard argues for not letting the excellent get in the way of the good and looking out for positive responses.

Fiona Tarpey & Chris Roche, Does Covid-19 mean the end of the aid and development sector?

Podcast where Fiona and Chris look at the ways in which the sector is being disrupted by Covid-19 and how it could be reformed to put power in the hands of local people.

Oxfam, How to confront the coronavirus catastrophe

New briefing looking at how G20 countries should invest in health systems to make them more resilient and inclusive.

Mail & Guardian, The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and the state of disaster

Analysis from South Africa with much wider relevance for countries where Covid-19 interventions seem to be undermining the rule of law.

Annie Wilkinson, The impact of Covid-19 in informal settlements: are we paying enough attention? 🌟

More analysis looking at social distancing in the contexts of urban poverty and the need to engage with communities in the short-term while addressing poor housing for the future.

Economist, The coronavirus could devastate poor countries

This editorial makes the case for why it is in rich countries’ interests to help poor countries devastated by coronavirus even if their own economies are deeply affected.

Nic Cheeseman, The coronavirus could topple governments around the world

Nic argues that while all democracies face threats from the impacts of coronavirus, these will be most acutely felt in poorer countries with weak political institutions.

Rachel Kleinfeld, Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?

Carnegie build on Yuen Yuen Ang’s argument last week that the authoritarian-democratic narrative is a false dichotomy. Instead they tentatively highlight the importance of capability, legitimacy and previous experience with epidemics in understanding how states cope/respond (presumably with implications for fragile states).

Florian Bieber, Authoritarianism in the time of the coronavirus

More analysis on the opportunities for democrats and dictators alike.

Transparency International, Coronavirus sparks high risk of corruption across Latin America

A set of proposals from 13 TI chapters in the region focused on the impacts of Covid-19 on public procurement, accountability and integrity.

Sabrina Mahtini, We need to decongest Africa’s prisons urgently, for everyone’s sake

Mahtini looks at how the prison sector is highly vulnerable when it comes to the spread of disease, particularly because of overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, and puts forward immediate solutions that would help ease the problem (relevant here in the UK too).

Clare Wenham, The oversecuritization of global health: changing the terms of the debate

An important reminder that we need to really unpack the multiple dimensions of ‘global health security’ when deciding where and how to act.

Luke McGee, Power-hungry leaders are itching to exploit the coronavirus crisis

More analysis on how the Covid-19 crisis is exposing cracks in democratic systems and norms that authoritarian-minded leaders are using to their advantage.

Micah Reddy and Simon Allison, Police use sjamboks and rubber bullets to enforce Hillbrow lockdown

This piece exposes the extra-judicial force that police have used in South Africa to enforce lockdowns, but also reminds us of the forms of community policing that we may see in the weeks and months to come.

Alice McCool, Uganda charges 20 LBGT+ people with risking spread of coronavirus

Another example of how the pandemic has been politicised to serve authoritarian purposes and infringe on key human rights.

Netflix, Pandemic

Feels pretty strange to be watching this docu-series while under lockdown, but it is well worth the watch (and doesn’t leave you completely without hope!) Using examples from all over the world, Pandemic covers a lot of ground, but with that also highlights the socio-economic, cultural and political dimensions of a crisis.

OpenDemocracy, How data-mining companies are set to gain from the Covid-19 pandemic

It’s not just governments that have something to gain from disinformation. OpenDemocracy argues that the business model of data-mining companies, challenged by numerous activists and analysts, is likely to gain further public acceptance to the detriment of democracy.

Alex de Waal, Covid-19 in Africa: “Know your epidemic, Act on its politics” 🌟

Alex argues that: “any emergency epidemic response can only work if it is designed and implemented in consultation with the affected communities. As African countries go into lockdown mode, the initial period of lockdown should be used to conduct consultations; to provide the essential epidemiological facts to communities (experts shouldn’t worry: people will understand); and to ask communities to propose their own, locally-suitable versions of transmission control, along with how they propose to monitor and enforce them.”

Global Government Forum, Central Banks push contactless payments to counter COVID-19

The Global Government Forum talk above and here about increased use of mobile payments and other methods to discourage the use of cash, as a possible source of transmission. This has been an ongoing trend for a while but interesting that COVID-19 might prove an accelerant, with benefits for financial crime investigators.

Yuval Noah Harari, The world after coronavirus

Harari looks at the increasing use of surveillance in Covid-19 interventions and the ways in which this may shape our lives afterwards.

Jeremy Cliffe, The rise of the bio-surveillance state

Another piece on the rule of law implications for Covid-19 interventions using bio-surveillance.

Tim Harford, How not to lose your mind in the Covid-19 age

Nothing whatsoever to do with governance or conflict but just some good advice for all of us. Make lists, figure out what’s really important right now and stay safe.

 Jason Hickel, How can we ensure that the Covid-19 economic rescue plan is both ecologically and socially just?

“Honestly, at some point you have to ask yourself: if our economic system doesn’t secure public health and well-being, and doesn’t protect and regenerate ecology, then what’s actually the point?” Word.

Useful sites & twitter threads curating content to follow

K4D, Covid-19 Resource Hub 🌟

Global Voices, Covid-19: Global voices for a pandemic

ICNL, COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker

ECPR Standing Group on Organised Crime, Controcorrente (dedicated Covid-19 blog series)

The Syllabus, The politics of Covid-19 readings

Various, Crowd-sourced cross-disciplinary coronavirus syllabus

Political Settlements Research Programme, Conflict, development and Covid-19 resources 🌟

IDS, Covid-19: the social science response to the pandemic 🌟

GI-TOC, Covid Crime Watch

Jorge Mantilla (UC-Chicago), Twitter thread curating pieces on Covid-19, conflict and crime

CGD, Coronavirus preparedness & response


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