The research into the response to the Zika outbreak and its comparison to previous responses to other epidemic outbreaks provided the following main conclusions:
The Zika outbreak has not dramatically changed the European or national reaction to global health issues. The reaction to Zika was built upon already existing institutional platforms, mechanisms and narratives. If there was a game changer in how the EU and its Member States address global infectious diseases, this was the West African Ebola outbreak (2013-2016).
Geography and bilateral relationships are important. Regardless of the global impact of the Zika epidemic, the geographical position and the intensity of bilateral relations with Latin America had a significant impact on science diplomacy related to the Zika outbreak. This factor explained the relatively low profile of the Czech Republic’s institutions in the response to Zika, as the country has a relatively lower intensity of bilateral relations with Latino American countries than Germany or the United Kingdom.
Public health diplomacy has more traction and conceptual understanding in both the diplomatic and the health community than the term “science diplomacy”.
When tackling infectious diseases, there are two approaches that are not necessarily interconnected and compete with each other for attention and financial resources: (i) the operational reaction to confine and prevent the outbreak, and (ii) fostering more prevention and research-oriented work to better understand the disease.
Science diplomacy continues to operate within the general national diplomatic narrative of a country. For instance, the German use of science diplomacy during the Zika epidemic can be interpreted as an attempt to globalise German scientific excellence, combined with some altruistic motives. In the UK, science diplomacy is perceived as a confirmation of an already existing and expanding “Global Britain” able to adapt to the new global environment and its challenges; further, UK science diplomacy is advanced through established government science advice mechanisms, and has an increasing role in the assessment of impact within the UK science system. The Czech case, in contrast, demonstrates the reaction of a smaller country with limited resources and aspirations to focus on other challenges than this one.
The more intergovernmental ‘Union method’ (as opposed to the ‘Community method’) can be identified in the European reaction to the Zika epidemics. All the states we researched used a combination of national channels, the existing EU framework as well as other institutional platforms (such as the G7 and G20, which were used as fora to bring up the topic by Germany and the UK) when available.
What the experts think
The lead author of this research case study, Prof Ivo Šlosarčík, has been interviewed to provide you with some key highlights.
Professor of European Integration Studies and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics and Administration and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law, Charles University in Prague
What were your main findings?
Read more! You may get all the information about this S4D4C case study in the following references: – Šlosarčík, I., N. Meyer, J. Chubb (2020): Science diplomacy as a means to tackle infectious diseases: The case of Zika. In: Young, M., T. Flink, E. Dall (eds.) (2020): Science Diplomacy in the Making: Case-based insights from the S4D4C project (Link). – Poster Report: ·”Science diplomacy and infectious diseases: between national and European narratives” (Link).