Lessons from a global crisis: coronavirus, the international order and the future of the EU (CIDOB)

By Pol Morillas | The coronavirus crisis may turn out to be a bump in the road for recent international dynamics. After a period of hibernation in the major global economies, perhaps life will return to normal, the storm weathered thanks to stimulus plans, and the world will once again be flat and hyperconnected. Alternatively, coronavirus may be a turning point in the era of globalisation.

Read more

Allan Behm: In times of coronavirus and climate change, we must rethink national security

The Australia Institute’s Allan Behm writes that ‘[t]he wellbeing of both the citizen and the state is the goal of all sound public policy. Traditional security thinking fails to deal with the new security issues presented by global warming, and now, pandemics. These constitute existential threats to human security that are not amenable to solution by military forces. Yet they go to the heart of national security in current circumstances.

The scope of national security policy needs to transcend traditional defence and law enforcement models by comprehending climate change, human security against pandemics, environmental (and soil) degradation, food security, water shortages and refugee flows – to identify just a few issues.”

Read more

Blinded by ‘the science’: COVID-19 and the authority of science in public policy

There are important distinctions when it comes to the way governments claim to have been ‘guided by the science’ when justifying their approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers are not saying they are following a course of action because ‘an experimentally and observationally validated law of nature has been brought to my attention’. They mean that social scientists, based on some assumptions and suppositions, have modelled a range of possible outcomes and produced a number of projections, not predictions.

It is not science but policy, that mixture of ideology, politics, and pragmatism, that the ministers are doing when the choose between the pandemic options.

Governments should not be able to avoid scrutiny and accountability for their actions by leaning on the authority of science.

Read more

COVID-19: ‘Dirty hands’ and political leadership in a crisis

A moral crisis arises when the expected outcome of all choices will contravene a moral principle, a personal value, or a social norm. COVID-19 presents such a problem – choice between ethically unpalatable options.

Choosing a mitigation strategy over a suppression strategy strikes a particular balance between expected loss of life and maintaining economic activity. Accepting the real possibility of a greater loss of lives than otherwise might occur has a ‘dirty hands’ feel about it – an example of the challenge of ‘governing innocently’ in a crisis.

The broader lesson for leaders and institutions is the need to prepare themselves not only for rapid action but also for the opprobrium that will come from confronting moral dilemmas.
Governments will face many more unavoidable ‘dirty hands’ type decisions.

Read more