On 9 December 2020, at a Law and Development Research Network (LDRN) webinar hosted by the Nelson Mandela University Faculty of Law, expert speakers from the network unravelled the implications of the pandemic for law & development research agendas on four highly relevant and interconnected themes: global public health, climate change, poverty and gender, and sovereign debt.
Dr. Rachel Hammonds (University of Antwerp, Belgium) set the scene with an overview of key global public health debates which will be prominent on post-COVID-19 research agendas, such as equity and fairness in relation to vaccine access (as well as broader global health objectives), and multilateralism in global health governance. Dr. Hammonds highlighted the tension between the right to health and global health security paradigms as a central theme in many of these debates.
Dr. Stellina Jolly (South Asian University, India) outlined important lessons from the pandemic for addressing climate change, such as the need for public participation in preparedness and adaptation, as well as attention to human rights and pre-existing inequalities. Dr. Jolly further examined the intersections between climate change, COVID-19 and other themes relevant to global justice, with a focus on regulatory, comparative and socio-legal issues which will require attention from researchers.
Prof. Monica Sapucaia Machado (Instituto de Direito Público, Brazil) highlighted the pandemic’s exacerbation of existing inequalities and its disproportionate gendered impacts in terms of care work, risk of infection, and risk of poverty. Prof. Sapucaia Machado further outlined legal and policy measures taken to address these impacts in some countries most affected by the pandemic, particularly in the field of social protection.
Dr. Celine Tan (University of Warwick, UK) focused on the sovereign debt crisis arising from the pandemic, and its operational and substantive repercussions for development and related research. Dr. Tan highlighted crucial intersections between development agendas and the structure of global finance, as well as the need to understand the role of finance in all areas of law & development research; to focus further on the concepts of debt and redistribution; and to support a plurality of research which amplifies marginalized voices.
The panel discussion and Q&A were moderated by Prof. Joanna Botha (Nelson Mandela University, South Africa). In the discussion with the panelists, participants raised a number of pertinent issues relating, e.g., to defining essential services (especially regarding domestic violence and mental health); the role of law in ensuring sustainability of economic recovery measures; investor litigation against public health protection measures; and taxation to fund vaccine purchases.