Introducing the Digital Symposium: Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law
By Alicia Ely Yamin, Senior Fellow
The COVID-19 pandemic is not merely a health crisis, or an economic crisis, or even just a balancing act between the two. It is also a crisis for the legitimacy of democratic institutions and the rule of law, which were already frayed in many countries by growing autocracy and staggering social inequality. This symposium presents a snapshot of the spectrum of rights-related measures adopted in dozens of countries to date, and, in scrutinizing the rationales and quality of justification for legal action, it seeks to highlight the complex relationship between population well-being and the functioning of democratic institutions.
The symposium will run for several weeks as a series on Bill of Health each Monday and Thursday after its launch on May 12th, 2020. As the entries are published they will populate the interactive map above. In addition to individual country analyses, I have written an overview piece that frames the rationale for the symposium as well as some key themes across contexts.
In designing this digital symposium, we sought to ensure broad comparability among a large number of contributions, without prescribing a script. We posed the same three questions to legal scholars from countries representing every region of the world:
- In response to the novel Coronavirus, has your country adopted legal measures that restrict civil rights or undermine the democratic rule of law? If so, what form do these measures take?
- What is the main regulatory vehicle used to enact these changes? Has the judiciary evaluated the legality of such measures?
- Have these measures had, or are they likely to have, disproportionate impacts on certain groups, including women, disabled persons, minorities and/or marginalized and poor populations? Although “the public” is never monolithic, how would you characterize the overall reaction to these restrictions among the population? If there is political resistance or dissent, how is that being manifested?
However, we deliberately sought varied perspectives from legal scholars drawn not just from across the world but also from an array of fields — e.g., health law, constitutional law, specialists in disability and human rights. The complex challenges raised by the pandemic are not the province of any narrow field of expertise. Further, as is revealed in the contributions, these different perspectives at times produce distinct rankings of criteria for evaluating the legitimacy and impacts of state (in)actions, and distinct understandings of how willing we should be to accept measures in the interest of a broadly-construed social contract.
The effect of collecting these many diverse contributions — with all the limitations of the format — is far more a dialogue than a mere compilation of survey responses about COVID-19 and the law. Indeed, we hope it provides one opening of many for an important set of discussions to have at this critical moment in time.
We will continually update this page with the responses we receive. Browse the full list of submissions below, or click on the interactive map above to read individual posts.
Follow the conversation and share the articles in this symposium using #GlobalCOVIDSurvey!
Legal Tools Used in China in the COVID-19 Emergency by Wang Chenguang
Sweden’s Response to COVID-19: A Tale of Trust, Recommendations, and Odorous Nudges by Behrang Kianzad and Timo Minssen
COVID-19 in Brazil: Institutional Meltdown in the Middle of a Pandemic by Octávio Luiz Motta Ferraz
Switzerland’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Gian Luca Burci and Jennifer Hasselgard-Rowe
Restrictions in the Name of Health During COVID-19 in Finland by Kaisa-Maria Kimmel and Rosa Maria Ballardini
The Novel Coronavirus and Civil Rights: A Snapshot from Chile by Lidia Casas Becerra
COVID-19, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law: The Case of Iceland by Hrefna D. Gunnarsdóttir
Germany’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Sara Gerke
COVID-19 and the State of Alarm vis-à-vis Human Rights in Spain by Dorothy Estrada-Tanck
Kenya’s Growing Anti-Rights Public Health Agenda During COVID-19 by Allan Maleche and Nerima Were
General Quarantine, Social Emergency, and Economic Crisis: COVID-19 in Colombia by Isabel C. Jaramillo Sierra
Emerging Themes from the “Global Responses to COVID-19” Symposium by Alicia Ely Yamin
Restrictions on Liberty in the United Kingdom During COVID-19 by Keith Syrett
New Zealand’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Paul Rishworth
COVID-19, the Netherlands, and Human Rights: A Balancing Act by Brigit Toebes
How Denmark’s Epidemic Act Was Amended to Respond to COVID-19 by Janne Rothmar Herrmann
The Canadian Response to COVID-19 by Vanessa Gruben
Norway and the COVID-19 Lockdown by Malcolm Langford and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik
Rights, Democracy, and the Law in the United States During COVID-19 (a collection of resources previously published on Bill of Health)
Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and COVID-19 in South Africa by Mark Heywood
Peru and COVID-19: Quick Response Hampered by Structural Failures by Eduardo Dargent and Camila Gianella
COVID-19 Lays Bare Ireland’s Selective Approach to Care by Ruth Fletcher
The Law and Human Rights in Nigeria’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe