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Public Action and the Pandemic: The Role of Civil Society in Shaping State Responses

June 16, 2022

Public Action and the Pandemic Report

The Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies released a research study titled, "Public Action and the Pandemic: The Role of Civil Society in Shaping State Responses"


On March 11, 2020, as the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus spread to every major region of the world, WHO formally declared a global pandemic. Yet, despite its global nature, the COVID-19 pandemic was largely managed as hundreds of separate public health emergencies in nations across the world, with the nature and effectiveness of national responses varying significantly from one setting to the next. While much of the academic literature on responses to COVID-19 has focused on key determinants of state responses to public policy challenges, what is often missing in this frame of analysis is an understanding of the role of civil society, a role that in the pandemic has largely been organized around questions of human, social, and economic rights.

This research study systematically documents, evaluates, and explains the role that civil society has played in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic through an examination of five separate case studies: Mexico, Kenya, South Africa, India, and the Philippines. Drawing on interviews conducted with key informants from 52 civil society organizations (CSOs), this report details the findings from each country, framed within three broad categories of analysis: 1) Modes of Intervention: CSO Activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic; 2) CSOs and the State: Relationships and Engagement; 3) Response Challenges: Navigating Priorities and Overcoming Barriers. Comparative analysis of the country level findings revealed 10 cross-cutting themes which are organized in this report within these three categories of analysis.

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