(Un-)healthy Civil-Military Relations? Militarization of State Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Latin America and Asia-Pacific

  • A number of governments in Latin America and Asia-Pacific have given their militaries wide-ranging responsibilities to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. While the militarization of politics and public life partly precedes the pandemic, COVID-19 acts as a major stress test. States have mobilized the military to support civilian health systems and administrative agencies, and to uphold public order. This project examines the role the military plays in the COVID-19 pandemic response in 36 countries in Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
    Volkswagen Foundation, 2021-2022


    Dr. Lars Pelke

    Former GIGA Team member


    Research Questions

    The project examines two main research questions: (1) What is the role of the military in developing and implementing public policies during the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and Asia? (2) How can we explain the different roles of the military in COVID-19 responses across these regions?

    Contribution to International Research

    The project’s findings will contribute to the burgeoning literature on the political implications of the global COVID-19 pandemic and will offer crucial insights for academics, decision-makers and the broader public on the role of the military in times of a global emergency in the two regions and beyond.

    Research Design and Methods

    Based on the systematic coding of publicly available data and two waves of expert survey, we will create and analyze the “Militarization of State Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic” (MSRC)-Dataset.

    GIGA Focus Global | 3/2023

    Military Involvement in COVID-19 Responses: Comparing Asia and Latin America

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries in Asia and Latin America mobilised their armed forces for a broad range of related support activities. However, this military participation occurring in the two regions, even where extensive, did not necessarily threaten democracy and human rights.

    GIGA Working Papers | 06/2023

    Militarisation of COVID-19 Responses and Autocratisation: A Comparative Study of Eight Countries in Asia-Pacific and Latin America

    This working paper examines the military’s contributions to COVID-19 pandemic responses and their implications for democracy in eight countries in in Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

    GIGA Focus Global | 3/2022

    COVID-19 and Violent Actors in the Global South: A Complex Relationship

    A cross-regional comparative analysis of the effects of COVID-19 on violence shows high levels of variation between contexts and in terms of specific armed actors. While Latin America along with the Middle East and North Africa have experienced an overall reduction, violence in sub-Saharan Africa has increased.


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