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With the advent of the global pandemic, the architecture of international development has changed. Limited advances made through the promotion of universal healthcare and attempts to reduce global equality have been put under strain in a manner not seen in a generation. The deviation from rights-based approaches to public and social policy since early in 2020 has continued throughout the various waves of the pandemic and has caused different regions to react in different ways to enforce lockdowns, protect pharmaceutical companies, enforce inequality and introduce sometimes draconian public health emergency laws. COVID-19 has also sometimes been used as a pretext to further erode equality legislation and human rights in different contexts around the world. This chapter assesses the implications of this pandemic inequality as a feature of international development in light of the actions taken by governments around the world over its first two years.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. Its impacts have ranged from taking lives to geopolitics with governments engaging in a bitter war of words (and actions) around mitigation and other issues. This disunity is causing concern across the world, not least in the UN system, although it is better that this is being played out in public spats rather than in violent conflict (Steiner, 2020). As Florini and Sharma (2020) argue, the 21st century is set to be one of ‘massive disruptions’ posing serious threats to society. These range from potential political turmoil to financial fragilities, coupled with climate disruption. COVID-19 has demonstrated the imperative of effective, financed international cooperation to solve or remediate these global challenges. However, the prospects for enhanced international cooperation seem to have diminished in recent years as a result of dialectics of globalization.

The spatial dynamics of liberalization, offshoring and corporate greed have generated reactionary backlashes in some developed economies, such as the US and UK. The rise of right-wing populism globally has been associated with the politics of anti-globalization and protectionism (Gereffi, 2018; Kiely, 2020), and Baldwin (2019) predicts that these tendencies will intensify as middle-class professions are gutted by the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), generating further pressure towards ‘shelterism’ and ‘me first’ economic policies. These developments could then be further securitized in relation to climate change impacts –​ an already extant trend (Andersson, 2019; Buxton and Hayes, 2016).

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The world has been convulsed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. The virus has caused untold misery both directly and indirectly to people around the world and its effect on societies and economies globally has been catastrophic. International travel has ground to a near halt, the global economy has stalled and many countries around the world are in government-enforced ‘lockdowns’. Numerous countries have entered deep recessions and many global value chains have experienced massive disruption as a result of both demand, and in some cases, supply shocks, sending reverberations through the value chains of suppliers with negative multiplier and accelerator effects. Such economic shocks are largely an outcome of government policy responses to the pandemic and will have cascading effects both socially and economically for many years to come (OECD, 2020). Notwithstanding the billions of lives that have been adversely affected and the hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from it, the pandemic has also exposed further serious flaws in the architecture of international development.

In the Global North, the purpose of lockdowns has been to slow the spread of the disease and prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. The countries of the Global South appear to be affected differently, although this is changing as the geographic epicentres of the disease shift. In the developing world, lockdowns were put in place quickly, with often severe livelihood consequences given high levels of dependence on the informal sector for survival, and the general absence of widespread health, social security and public policy assistance measures.

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EPDF and EPUB available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

Though a globally shared experience, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected societies across the world in radically different ways. This book examines the unique implications of the pandemic in the Global South.

With international contributors from a variety of disciplines including health, economics and geography, the book investigates the pandemic’s effects on development, medicine, gender (in)equality and human rights among other issues. Its analysis illuminates further subsequent crises of interconnection, a pervasive health provision crisis and a resulting rise in socio-economic inequality.

The book’s assessment offers an urgent discourse on the ways in which the impact of COVID-19 can be mitigated in some of the most challenging socio-economic contexts in the world.

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Impacts and Responses

Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

Bringing together a range of experts across various sectors, this important volume explores some of the key issues that have arisen in the Global South with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Situating the worldwide health crisis within broader processes of globalisation, the book investigates implications for development and gender, as well as the effects on migration, climate change and economic inequality. Contributors consider how widespread and long-lasting responses to the pandemic should be, while paying particular attention to the accentuated risks faced by vulnerable populations. Providing answers that will be essential to development practitioners and policy makers, the book offers vital insights into how the impact of COVID-19 can be mitigated in some of the most challenging socio-economic contexts worldwide.

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Since the mid-1990s the Chinese state and the country’s businesses have significantly increased their activity throughout the Global South. In International Development, China’s impacts on this varied meta-region have generated substantial interest in recent years due to their scale, scope and distinctive nature. Understandably, given the complexity of the subject, most analyses have focused on discrete aspects of Chinese engagement rather than attempting to undertake more comprehensive assessments around its nature and evolution. This article engages this lacuna by identifying the main vectors of China’s engagement in the Global South, and examining their adaptive nature. In particular it identifies the main channels of impact and intersection before focusing on China’s signature foreign economic policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to ground the analysis. The article then examines the ways in which China is reconfiguring its foreign economic diplomacy in response to the issue of infrastructure-linked debt – perhaps the most controversial aspect of China’s growing global presence. We demonstrate that the Chinese ‘development’ policy is currently undergoing a substantial reorganisation towards soft power initiatives in response to (geo)political backlashes arising from the previous implementation of the BRI and the risks such loans present to the Chinese economy. We characterise this as an attempt at ‘normalisation’ of China as a ‘donor’, suggesting the power of global public opinion despite the ‘omni-channel politics’ and other power resources the country can bring to bear.

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The Introduction to this book aims to contribute to social science and humanities research by investigating key issues and emerging concerns pertinent to the effects of COVID-19 on the Global South. The book is transdisciplinary and draws on perspectives from health, economics, geography, development practice, political science and other academic specialisms on themes relevant to international development, public and social policy. The Introduction highlights the need for this text at this point in time and notes that this is a vital dialogue on an important topic. The scale of the pandemic and the resultant socioeconomic scarring across the Global South needs to be examined from different perspectives to give those acting in the field a better, critical knowledge base to help mitigate its consequences in highly vulnerable regions. The central need for the book is to provide a specialist discourse from a generic international development studies perspective on how the impact of COVID-19 and its variants can be mitigated in some of the most challenging socioeconomic contexts on earth.

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This collection reflects on key issues that have arisen globally going into a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and explores their implications for international development. The emerging disparities and disparate responses on global and national scales mean that the implications of this pandemic will affect regions and societies in radically different ways. What has emerged to date has been further crises of disconnection and a pervasive health provision crisis that has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities and uneven development globally. Contributors focus on development implications, medical impacts, gender (in)equality dimensions, human rights breaches and the effects on migration, climate change and economic inequality, among other issues. Particular attention is paid to the accentuated risks faced by vulnerable populations and the differing impacts of policy interventions and governmental adaptation to the necessity of public protection.

Open access

This collection reflects on key issues that have arisen globally going into a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and explores their implications for international development. The emerging disparities and disparate responses on global and national scales mean that the implications of this pandemic will affect regions and societies in radically different ways. What has emerged to date has been further crises of disconnection and a pervasive health provision crisis that has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities and uneven development globally. Contributors focus on development implications, medical impacts, gender (in)equality dimensions, human rights breaches and the effects on migration, climate change and economic inequality, among other issues. Particular attention is paid to the accentuated risks faced by vulnerable populations and the differing impacts of policy interventions and governmental adaptation to the necessity of public protection.

Open access

This collection reflects on key issues that have arisen globally going into a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and explores their implications for international development. The emerging disparities and disparate responses on global and national scales mean that the implications of this pandemic will affect regions and societies in radically different ways. What has emerged to date has been further crises of disconnection and a pervasive health provision crisis that has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities and uneven development globally. Contributors focus on development implications, medical impacts, gender (in)equality dimensions, human rights breaches and the effects on migration, climate change and economic inequality, among other issues. Particular attention is paid to the accentuated risks faced by vulnerable populations and the differing impacts of policy interventions and governmental adaptation to the necessity of public protection.

Open access