New Publication Examines COVID-19 as a Capability Crisis from a Global Perspective

July 04, 2020

COVID-19 has been one of the most substantial challenges to human development in over a century. In a new publication, Qin Gao, Professor and Director of the Columbia China Center for Social Policy, joins a team of international interdisciplinary scholars to examine the impacts of COVID-19 and understand policy challenges using a capability framework.

The article, titled “COVID-19 as a Capability Crisis: Using the Capability Framework to Understand Policy Challenges,” will appear in the August issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. It is available for download as a discussion paper in the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Wellbeing and Human Development Project. Dr. Paul Anand, a professor affiliated with the Open University, LSE, and University of Oxford, initiated the project. 

“I've been working on quality of life in some form for most of my career,” said Anand. “In recent years, we’ve been drawing on the capability approach that has had a significant impact on the way the UN [United Nations] and OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] monitor economic progress. COVID-19 limits the essential freedoms of populations in a variety of ways. This approach provides a natural and more detailed perspective of understanding deprivations.” 

Anand and Gao met a few years ago when Anand was a visiting scholar at the Columbia School of Social Work. They built a collaboration and have continued to work together. The other authors of this article include Bob Ferrer of the University of Texas Health, San Antonio, Ricardo Nogales of the University of Oxford, and Elaine Unterhalter of University College London. 

In the article, the authors examine the diversity of capabilities compromised due to COVID-19 and consider the emerging policy responses in several countries. Based on these analyses, the authors lay out several priorities for policymakers and the public to map the road ahead. “We argue that it is important to meet economic challenges from a people-first perspective,” said Gao. “One global priority is the need to develop low carbon economies. This could be beneficial for job creation as well as meeting the UN sustainable development goals.”

Columbia Affiliations
China Center for Social Policy