Institutions and Governments during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Policy experts on the institutions and governments tasked with mitigating the current crisis.

A global pandemic requires strong governance and effective coordination. With this in mind, how exactly should governments be working with each other and with international bodies — such as the World Health Organization — to limit the spread and fallout of the virus? What types of government policies are best suited for the moment? And what can past crises teach us about how to respond to this one?

The Max Bell School's Policy Challenges during a Pandemic series tackled these questions with a number of webinars and briefings covering the role of institutions and governments in this crisis.

Here's a recap:

The Role of International Institutions in the COVID-19 Pandemic

The world is more globalized than ever before, and no state can completely isolate or withdraw itself from the international system. What implications does this have in times of global crisis? In her recent webinar and briefing, Professor Jennifer Welsh delivered an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing international architecture for managing emergencies such as COVID-19. Focusing on how COVID-19 could shape broader geopolitical dynamics and future prospects for the reform of international institutions, she also explored how the current pandemic is both highlighting the essential role of the state in implementing effective solutions, and reasserting the importance of sovereignty and national citizenship.

Evidence, Expertise, and Uncertainty in Decision-Making During a Pandemic

It is always crucial that policymakers have access to reliable evidence, but this is especially true during times of crisis. Collecting accurate data on metrics such as total infections and deaths is difficult, with various jurisdictions employing different counting practices and health officials in many places under-equipped to administer adequate numbers of viral tests. Despite these issues, many experts still believe the data on COVID-19 are accurate enough to inform large-scale policy responses at all levels of government. In March, Professor Nicholas King’s webinar and briefing covered the role of evidence and expertise in decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Success and Failure of Intergovernmental Coordination

In the face of a public health crisis like COVID-19, governmental actors at all levels — international, national, sub-national, and local levels, right down to administrators of individual institutions — must coordinate effectively with each other. Professor Ian Peach was joined by Dominic Cardy, New Brunswick’s Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, for a webinar discussion about the challenges of coordination amongst governmental actors. See what real-world examples Cardy had to share related to the challenges involved in acting quickly, but in a systematized way, and make sure to read Peach’s insights in his accompanying briefing.

How Different Countries Respond to Global Crises: Social Policy Lessons from the Past

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced nations around the world to confront enormous social policy challenges. Countries have implemented sweeping changes, seeking simultaneously to limit the spread of the disease and mitigate the economic damage. For the most part, new policies and programs that have been introduced are supposed to be temporary. Professor Daniel Béland took a look at past crises and assessed the durability of the social policies implemented by governments in those contexts. Watch his webinar and read his briefing to learn what past crises can tell us about which COVID-19 policies might persist beyond the end of this pandemic.

Canada’s Emergencies Act in the Age of COVID-19

It seems obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic is grounds for the Canadian government to invoke the Emergencies Act; the country is facing its largest public health and economic crisis in generations. However, the Prime Minister has not opted to pursue this course of action. Why? Master of Public Policy student Omar Akeileh wrote a briefing addressing that question, detailing exactly what invocation of the Act would entail, carefully weighing the potential benefits and risks.

“I Am in Control”: Lessons in Crisis Management from Past Crises

In an emergency, it feels like every situation presents an unprecedented challenge. However, there are preexisting playbooks that can serve as guidelines. In his webinar, Mel Cappe looked at various past crises, from September 11 to the SARS pandemic, and outlined 20 principles for how best to prepare for and deal with “black swan” events.

How Can Globalization Be Governed?

How can globalization’s benefits be increased and sustained while ensuring that its costs are kept within acceptable bounds? Ever-evolving technologies have enabled globalization to become a powerful force. This presents a number of challenging collective actions dilemmas, ranging from global pandemics to climate change. Peter Nicholson's webinar and policy briefing delve into various models for governing globalization, with special attention paid to how each of the models might address the future of globalization in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

Partisan Politics During a Pandemic: From Consensus to Conflict

COVID-19 is a universal threat, but it is not affecting all countries in the same way. Political responses across various states have ranged broadly. Why have some countries unified across partisan lines, while others have devolved into greater conflict? Tasha Kheiriddin authored a briefing and hosted a webinar examining how and why COVID-19 has affected political partisanship in countries around the world.

The Max Bell School’s Policy Challenges during a Pandemic series tapped into the expertise of the Max Bell School community and beyond to tackle the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.

In addition to institutional and governmental challenges, policy experts have weighed in on issues of communications and misinformation; health and equity; and economic recovery. 

Click here to take a look at the other articles and briefings in the series.

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