When does crisis end? Researchers receive funding to investigate

A University of Warwick expert in global health law is part of an international team exploring how we define the end of a crisis in a new project funded by the Wellcome Trust’s new Discovery Award scheme.

The project, which is entitled, ‘After the end: lived experiences and aftermaths of diseases, disasters, and drugs in global health’ is an 8 year, £6.5m programme. Its central premise is that our understanding of time, shaped by the idea of a clearly discernible beginning, middle and ending, frames our use of resources, our ethics and care in ways which exclude important counter-narratives of what happens afterwards, and what continues or endures.

The collaborative project team, which spans four continents and multiple disciplines, seeks to challenge this approach, by asking such questions as:

· When global outbreaks and crises are declared ‘over’, what, when and for whom is an end ‘the end’ and what happens after?

· And How do declarations of ends shape personal experiences of crises and ongoing access to care, health and obligations?

The project will explore lived experiences of time and endings in global health crises, capturing counter-narratives and their implications for global health, and identifying the moral and ethical duties of global health to prioritise broader ideas of temporal legitimacy. Its focus is timely and important as we increasingly face multiple aftermaths, created by both previous and current environmental disasters, infectious disease outbreaks and drug resistance.

The project team includes Professor Sharifah Sekalala at the University of Warwick, and is led by Patricia Kingori, Professor of Global Health Ethics at the Ethox Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College.

The team led by Professor Sekalala at Warwick Law School will focus on reparative justice and how we can repair the international legal and financial system to respond to global health crises. Working with early career scholars over the course of eight years, they will explore the role of reparative justice at the ‘end of crisis’ in three ways’:

  • A doctrinal analysis of national and international laws that have an impact on health crises ​
  • Develop greater conceptual clarity of reparative justice in international legal reform ​
  • Explore how national and international organisations respond sustainably to crises in the global south beyond the ‘imagined end of crisis?’ ​

Professor Sekalala said: “This is exciting both academically but also from an international law-making point of view. Over the next few years, there will be global efforts to reimagine international law. Already there is an ongoing attempt to agree to a new pandemic treaty in order to improve pandemic preparedness and responses as well as calls for a TRIPS waiver which would necessitate revising the TRIPS Agreement. There is therefore enormous potential for this research to have real life applications for law and public policy.”

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