Nichole Georgeou and Charles Hawksley

Development studies educators seeking to assist students understand how different states around the world reacted and responded to COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic are advised of a new, free, 132-page report —State Responses to COVID-19: a Global Snapshot at 1 June 2020. Published by the Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative (HADRI) at Western Sydney University, and edited by HADRI Director, Associate Professor Nichole Georgeou (WSU) and Dr Charles Hawksley (UOW), the collection represents the work of over 70 academic and professional contributors from across the world, linked through their research connections to HADRI.

The report is arranged regionally and contains 43 country case studies from Oceania, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas. These cases studies provide short (1200 word) commentaries on the ways states (and some territories) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategies adopted to protect public health (and hospital systems), the relative success of these plans, effects on higher education, as well as economic stimulus packages and general assessments at 1 June.

Case studies included are:

The Pacific: Australia; French Pacific Territories; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Solomon Islands

Southeast Asia: Cambodia; Indonesia; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; Timor Leste; Vietnam

East Asia: Japan; South Korea; Taiwan; Mongolia

South Asia: Bangladesh; India’s NE states; India SW (Kerala); Nepal; Pakistan; Sri Lanka

Middle East: Iran; Palestinian territories; Turkey

Africa: Ghana; Kenya; South Africa

Europe: France; Germany; Greece; Iceland; Italy; Spain; Sweden; Russia; UK

The Americas: Brazil; Canada; Chile; Cuba; Nicaragua; United States of America.

There are also ten ‘issues papers’ that detail the related effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups. These cover: COVID-19 in Pacific Islands States; Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the PACIFIC (Fiji and Vanuatu); Australia’s treatment of migrants; Samoa’s Constitutional crisis; Human trafficking and modern slavery: Community Group Buying, Vulnerable Communities and COVID-19 in China; US Health care workers; Nepal’s Migrant workers return; Sans Papiers in Switzerland; Migrant service providers in Italy.

In assessing varying responses across countries and contexts, the contributions collectively raise important questions about types of government, political devolution, state capacity, and the role of technology in managing pandemics. The collection has a comparatively large section on Oceania, and covers the fragile health systems of PNG and Solomon Islands, where COVID-19 preparedness and containment has been impressive despite a relative absence of cases.

Contributions on Chile and Brazil highlight how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing social, economic and constitutional crises, while the contribution on the world’s most affected state, the United States of America, explores how a health pandemic has become deeply politicised.

The case of Pakistan points to challenges of managing a public health response amidst a discourse of COVID-19 as a conspiracy. An issues paper on Samoa, and contributions from Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the Philippines, highlight how some states have used the COVID-19 pandemic to limit dissent, or to erode human rights protections.

Community resilience is another feature of many contributions. Turkey, Ghana and Kenya all point to the important role of community cohesion and solidarity in managing the impact of the virus on their population, while close kinship relations in Pacific Islands enable strong levels of community resilience, coupled with high levels of community self-sufficiency.

State Responses to COVID-19 was conceptualized in early May, and published on 17 June. The six-week publication deadline was frenetic with over 70 contributors to this volume. As DSAA members would know, it is no easy thing to summarise 4-5 months of tumultuous social, political and economic pandemic history in 1000-1200 words on top of other tight deadlines and existing online teaching and marking. We would like to take this opportunity to again thank our contributors for all of their hard work.

The process of interacting with authors across the world, and of compiling this information and analysis, created an enormous feeling of collegiality through shared engagement in this timely and policy relevant research. As referenced in the Report Introduction, Sara Amhed’s The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Routledge, New York, 2004: 184) helps to collectively make sense of our rapidly changing world during this era of pandemic:

Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or even the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.

State Responses to COVID19: a global snapshot at 1 June is free on Creative Commons, and available to download here.

This post was written by:

Associate Professor Nichole Georgeou | Associate Dean (Engagement and International) Director, Humanitarian & Development Research Initiative (HADRI)
Associate Professor, Humanitarian and Development Studies
School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University


Dr. Charles Hawksley Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Studies, Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (ASSH) University of Wollongong