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Back to the Future of Global Health Security

Abstract picture of a computer virus

Abstract Picture of a computer virus / courtesy of Yuri Samoilov/flickr

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on 31 May 2016.

Growing populations, rising global temperatures, urbanization, and easier trade and travel are all changing the world in ways conducive to the spread of infectious disease. The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks have dominated news headlines and their toll has been terrible, but a more lethal infectious disease could do far worse harm.

“For infectious diseases, you cannot trust the past when planning for the future,” warned Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), at the World Health Assembly last week in Geneva. “What we are seeing,” she said, is “a dramatic resurgence of the threat from emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. The world is not prepared to cope.”

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Clausewitz and the Crackhouse

Dangerous drugs

This article was originally published by War On The Rocks on 5 May 2016.

In 1834, the British Government could not have sent a worse person with the worst set of instructions to China.  The British Parliament chose William Napier, a Scottish lord, to be the Chief Superintendent of Trade in East Asia.  Lord Napier had no experience with Chinese culture or traditions, but was nonetheless sent to Canton to take-up residence as the King’s representative and to ensure unfettered access to the Chinese market.  However, setting up residence on Chinese soil without first visiting the Chinese Imperial court and kowtowing to the emperor was a violation of the Middle Kingdom’s laws. The importation of opium, something the British had been smuggling into China well before the arrival of Napier, was also illegal, and he ensured that it continued. » More

Hidden Dangers: The Implications of the Global Health Security Agenda

Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 15 April 2016.

On the heels of the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference and an Ebola-ridden year, the world is reminded of the significance of global health policy, not only for disease prevention but also for international relationships and the future direction of health care. Recent international health initiatives  have pragmatically stressed the importance of defense and economics. This slant, particularly in the relatively new Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), raises questions about future approaches to global health. The GHSA has acquired significant funding for outbreak response, but its treatment of global health as an international security issue rather than a humanitarian one warrants a cautious assessment. » More

War on Disease? Zika Sheds Light on Growing Military Role in Global Health

Administering a vaccine to a child

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 February 2016.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, with the potential to infect up to four million people in the Americas by year’s end. Under increasing pressure to slow the spread of the disease, the Brazilian government has stepped up its response, including mobilizing 220,000 military personnel to cities across the country.

According to Brazil’s ministry of health, the military will be used to spread awareness by going door-to-door, handling out pamphlets, and distributing mosquito repellent. However, it is believed that the troops will also use this opportunity to identify which homes are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and target those sites for surveillance and fumigation. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus, which has been linked with the rare congenital condition microcephaly in newborn babies.

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What Challenges Does 2016 Hold for Sub-Saharan Africa?

Soldiers during exercise Kwanza in Angola, 2010

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory on 20 January 2016.

Akin to its physical landscape, the political environment of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 varied greatly from country to country. On a positive note, elections in politically polarized countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire concluded relatively peacefully, despite the shadow of political violence looming large. Burkina Faso, which entered the year in political limbo following the ousting of long-serving president Blaise Compaoré, also elected its first democratic government, thwarting a coup attempt by the deposed leader’s presidential guard in the process.

In another encouraging development, 2015 also marked the nadir of the West African Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people since the virus was first reported in the region in early 2012. Just today, the World Health Organization declared Liberia—the last affected country—Ebola-free.

However, while last year saw Sub-Saharan Africa overcome a number of important challenges, it also saw the continuation and often the creation of social, political, and economic obstacles that will define the continent’s security outlook in 2016.

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