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Indicators, security and sovereignty during COVID-19 in the Global South

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2021

John Harrington*
Professor of Global Health Law, Cardiff University, UK
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


The spread of COVID-19 has seen a contest over health governance and sovereignty in Global South states, with a focus on two radically distinct modes: (1) indicators and metrics and (2) securitisation. Indicators have been a vehicle for the government of states through the external imposition and internal self-application of standards and benchmarks. Securitisation refers to the calling-into-being of emergencies in the face of existential threats to the nation. This paper contextualises both historically with reference to the trajectory of Global South states in the decades after decolonisation, which saw the rise and decline of Third-World solidarity and its replacement by neoliberalism and global governance mechanisms in health, as in other sectors. The interaction between these modes and their relative prominence during COVID-19 is studied through a brief case-study of developments in Kenya during the early months of the pandemic. The paper closes with suggestions for further research and a reflection on parallel trends within Global North states.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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