In response to the covid-19 pandemic, governments across the world have had to implement emergency measures to confront the crisis. These measures have come in various forms, ranging from economic stimulus packages to establishing varying degrees of lockdown. These types of rapidly implemented measures are deemed as emergency provisions, often declared though calling a ‘state of emergency’, as they allow governments to pass regulations without going through normal legislation procedures. Whilst many of these measures are appropriate, and indeed effective, in managing the spreads of the virus, the increasing frequency of emergency power use has caused discomfort in some quarters that fear constitutional norms and democratic principles could become subverted if emergency power use becomes normalised. At its most extreme, the use of emergency powers by governments become perpetuated indefinitely, a condition of governance that has been termed as a ‘state of exception’ in which the citizenship is unaware of this prolonged state of emergency and normalisation of emergency powers.
The outbreak of Covid-19 and its quick spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the Gulf is shining a light on the unpreparedness of states and societies that, long before the pandemic, were already struggling to cope with the effects of decades of social unrest, failing state institutions, interrupted political transitions, civil wars and proxy conflicts. In turn, different state reactions to Covid-19 are also exposing glaring differences in state capacity and economic resources.
Matthew Johnson, Editor and Senior Lecturer in Politics, Lancaster University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As we might expect, this Editor’s Choice concerns COVID-19. Our focus lies on examining an underreported set of impacts on a region which has generally garnered coverage on account of human conflict: the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The legacy of resource scarcity and resource curses, socio-economic inequalities and sectarian and religious conflict has been to create significant vulnerabilities to communicable disease. As such, it was no surprise to see Iran, for example, a country long subject to international sanctions, particularly affected by the pandemic. Given that so much coverage of COVID-19 has focused on crises in Europe and the Americas, it is extremely important that we understand the nature of the pandemic in the Gulf insofar as it has both the possibility of exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and other, non-pandemic crises.