Outsmarting the Next Pandemic: What COVID-19 Can Teach Us

Outsmarting the Next Pandemic What Can Teach Us (Taylor & Francis Routledge Imprint, 2022) Pp. 302, ISBN: 978-1-032-10530-7 (pbk)

This edited collection was produced by Dr Elizabeth Kirley and Deborah Porter with support from the Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto. This book makes an important contribution to the work of the Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be essential reading for scholars, policymakers, and a general audience interested in holistic and human rights–based approaches to pandemic response, recovery, and prevention.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach to tackling issues in law and policy across a variety of professional settings and in multiple jurisdictional contexts, Outsmarting the Next Pandemic zeros in on how our collective failure to proactively manage the pandemic has been the result, in part, of misidentification and sometimes outright denial of contests and contradictions between “rule of law” imperatives and more compassionate, humane, and individualized policy approaches. As this book puts front and center, there is an important tension at the heart of ubiquitous public health messaging that “we are all in this together.” The pandemic has exhibited and intensified material inequalities of all kinds within and between states, showing us that, in fact, we are not all in this together. This book does not shy away from this reality; instead, it adopts a forward-looking approach that takes seriously the call to solidarity in an effort to explore practical policy solutions to the fractured and unequal impacts of the pandemic.

The 12 case studies addressed in this book weave in and between the three thematic pillars that animate the Centre’s work: human rights, crime, and security in transnational context. From decisions around the rationing of medical care to masking mandates, from travel restrictions to online education, from homelessness to supply chain disruptions, this book contributes to legal and ethical debates about the appropriate frame to apply when we seek to manage the collective good while ensuring minimal infringement of individual autonomy and human rights. As the chapter authors continually remind us, this is a balance that must be struck and restruck throughout the duration of an emergency, as both a question of domestic and global governance.

The edited collection is particularly well suited to carrying out this daunting project. Rather than proposing a unifying theory or totalizing substantive orientation to pandemic preparedness, this volume strikes a cautious, exploratory, and tentative tone. In approaching each case and issue its own terms, the authors collectively generate a policy discussion that is as attentive to difference along class, racialized, gendered, and geographical axes as it is to individual lived experiences of the pandemic. This method is present internally in each chapter, as well as across the chapters and the first-person narrative accounts and photographs. In juxtaposing traditional analytical chapters with the innovative “Corona Shorts,” which feature writers from the global north and global south and represent all continents, this collection embodies the central question it seeks to take on: how to foster people-first transnational collaborative responses to the global health crisis while charting a way out of the disparities and inequalities that characterize our current institutions of national and international governance, so that we will be better prepared for the next emergency.

The COVID-19 crisis and the upcoming recovery period stand as a powerful opportunity for scholars, policymakers, professionals, and everyday/everynight workers to build a strategic conversation about how to move away from the systems and structures that have generated deep and persistent global inequality. This collection teaches us how the virus capitalized on very human, very contingent power structures to generate its devastating impacts. That the devastation wrought by the virus has affected some more than others is not a natural or deserved reality; it is the result of concrete decisions taken in service of concrete political commitments. All too often, the mechanisms of global governance have been shrouded in secrecy, captured by elites, and hidden from view. Aligned with the long-standing commitment of the Nathanson Centre to combating transnational corruption, this collection urges transparency as an overarching goal as we build our collective future.

Excerpt from Introduction by Dr Heidi Matthews, co-director of the Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security (2018-2021)