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Accepted Paper:

Trust relations in a pathogenic period: African Union self-empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic  
Etienne Franca (University of Coimbra) Catarina Milhazes (Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores African Union (AU) self-empowerment practices in face of a disproportional COVID-19 response, which reinforced global power relations. It will analyze how the AU disowned cloudy discourses on trust that intensified assumed oppositions, namely between the North and the South.

Paper long abstract:

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted fractures in global health that have disproportionally and historically burdened the poorest. This was particularly evident in the governance structures and policies developed at the global level to deal with vaccines development and distribution. Narratives supporting such policies and structures, aimed at fostering cooperation more broadly, ended up reiterating global agendas benefitting wealthier, vaccine-producing nations.

Instead of accepting protracted vaccine distribution schemes, some countries, including African Union (AU) Member States, gave up on negotiations, developing alternative regional governance mechanisms. This self-empowering movement can be seen as a form of resistance to the disenchanted views of global power relations brought up by various pandemic panoramas—e.g. border closures and movement restrictions, (un)availability of testing supplies, vaccines allocation and distribution.

This paper seeks to show how, in face of imminent death, trust became instrumental for some (references to it became noticeable for engaging in binaries such as North and South, government and people, public and private) and futile for others. For countries in the South and AU countries in particular, the discourse on trust proved murky and anachronic, hindering the institutionalization of a global governance mechanism for the COVID-19 response.

This paper explores how AU initiatives such as AVAT, PACT, and the Trusted Travel Scheme hint at a significant empowerment level. Through disavowing a binary view of the world, these initiatives also flag a more prominent normative role by the African Union, not necessarily in tandem with international governance mechanisms.

Panel Poli16
African regional organizations and their politics under the global condition
  Session 2 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -