Ebola West Africa: Through the security looking-glass

The seminar will run from 3:00-4:15pm on Thursday (18 Aug) in the APCD boardroom (room 2.54 in the Hedley Bull building).

Christian Enemark will take up the post of Professor of International Relations at the University of Southampton in September His latest book is Biosecurity Dilemmas: Dreaded Diseases, Ethical Responses, and the Health of Nations (Georgetown University Press

“In 2014 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) described the Ebola outbreak then ongoing in West Africa as ‘a threat to international peace and security’ (Resolution 2177). It was the first time a disease outbreak of natural origin had attracted language ordinarily applied to political violence. This presentation assesses the significance of Resolution 2177 as an instrument of health governance, with particular regard to the Council’s primary aim in the resolution: to effect the lifting of state-imposed bans on travel to and from West Africa. As travel bans were arguably a harmful move to securitize a disease at the national level, the UNSC’s response might at first appear to have been an international-level attempt to remove Ebola from the realm of security policy for the sake of public health. However, the use of threat language in Resolution 2177, and the rapid mobilization of disease-control resources by some governments represented on the Council, suggests that some kind of security logic was indeed driving the international response to Ebola. It was not the logic of securitization which some other governments, intent upon using borders as barriers to contagion, were apparently applying. Rather, to counteract this, the UNSC appears to have acted according to the security logic of governmentality whereby the health of populations (in and beyond West Africa) would be secured by facilitating cross-border circulation of people with medical expertise. The Council’s contribution to health governance on this occasion was to support a shift in security logic: from securitization to securing circulation.”

From Dr. Benjamin Zala
Department of International Relations, ANU

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