The politics of the response to COVID-19 in fragile states

Article by Thea Hilhorst and Rodrigo Mena

Authorities in conflict-affected states used the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen their control and agendas. 

This is the main finding in a recent paper by Professor Thea Hilhorst and Dr Rodrigo Mena published in Disasters.

Their paper builds on the theory that hazards become a disaster in interaction with vulnerability and response policies, yet often lead to renewed disaster risk creation.

It is based on seven case studies of countries worldwide that experienced social conflict at the advent of the pandemic (Brazil, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, the Philippines and Zimbabwe), covering the period from March–August 2020. The findings show that authorities instrumentalized COVID-19 to strengthen their control and agendas. Responsibility was assumed for lockdowns, but this was not accompanied by care to mitigate their adverse effects.

Social conflict shaped the response, as high levels of mistrust in authorities complicated the implementation of measures, while authorities did not support community-based coping initiatives. Whether COVID-19 will trigger or exacerbate conflict and vulnerabilities depends on pre-existing, country-specific conditions and how a government and other actors frame the issue and respond.

Read the full article online - 'When Covid-19 meets conflict: politics of the pandemic response in fragile and conflict-affected states'

The case studies were carried out by ISS MA students and PhD researchers - see the acknowledgement in the article for the full list.


Professor Thea Hilhorst

Assistant professor

Dr Rodrigo Mena

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