Emergency Powers in Response to COVID-19: Policy Diffusion, Democracy, and Preparedness
25 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 2, 2020
The paper relies upon legal as well as political science perspectives and methods. The first part of the paper frames pandemics within in the context of international law, focusing especially on the right to health, the WHO 2005 International Health Regulations, and derogations from human rights in normal times as well as during states of emergency. The second part of the paper sets out a theoretical framework, deriving three hypotheses for why certain states declare SOE while others do not: (i) states look to their regional peers for inspiration and legitimation, leading to patterns of regional policy diffusion; (ii) newer and less robust democracies are more likely to resort to SOEs, compared with mature democracies and dictatorships; (iii) states with a higher pandemic preparedness are less likely to resort to a SOE.
The third and fourth parts of the paper presents data and results, respectively. The results suggest that states’ declaration of SOEs is driven by both external and internal factors. A permissive regional environment, characterized by many and simultaneously declared SOEs, may have diminished reputational and political costs, making employment of emergency powers more palatable for a wider range of governments. At the same time, internal characteristics, specifically democratic institutions and pandemic preparedness, shaped governments’ decisions. Weak democracies with poor pandemic preparedness were considerably more likely to opt for a SOE than dictatorships and robust democracies with higher preparedness.
Keywords: State of emergency, COVID-19, policy diffusion, democracy, preparedness
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