Accepted Paper:

Standby governance and empty networks: preparedness for global biological threats  


Jose A. Cañada (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

Global health policies have embraced preparedness as prevailing approach. Through this paradigm shift, threats have become uncertain and timeless. This translates into new governance modes which attempt at forming empty networks that will allow for quick response in case of emergency.

Paper long abstract:

During the last decade, national and international health institutions have embraced preparedness as the prevailing approach to deal with biological emergencies. Existing literature and biopreparedness experts describe this embrace as a paradigm shift which differentiates itself through three main traits, namely, a) threats are tackled at their source, b) all-hazards approach, i.e. policies must contemplate any kind of threat, and c) no pre-set measures, whereby policies must be flexible enough to accommodate measures depending on the event. This translates into an implementation style where threats become uncertain, undefined and, most importantly, timeless. This means that they can take any form, come any time or even not come at all. Literature has paid attention to the defining logics and the key strategies that give shape to those threats: risk assessment, scenario planning, simulation exercises are among them. In my project, through a wide array of materials - policies, acts, laws, guidelines, articles, videos, meetings, interviews, etc. -, I look at reported strategies for efficient implementation. Preliminary analysis has shown how preparedness incorporates a new governance style that I have called standby governance, whereby policies attempt to create empty and flexible networks that will, in case of biological emergency, allow for quick response in front of those undefined threats. This analysis describes the issues and problems behind the attempt at constructing such networks while making sense of the complex global and local array of actors necessary for it and the attempt to engage them.

Panel T058
Biorisk Intelligence otherwise: Scenarios, Visual Knowledge and new Mechanisms of Surveillance