Comparative Federalism and Covid-19 : Combating the Pandemic book cover
1st Edition

Comparative Federalism and Covid-19
Combating the Pandemic

Edited By

Nico Steytler

ISBN 9780367763961
Published October 27, 2021 by Routledge
454 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This comprehensive scholarly book on comparative federalism and the Covid-19 pandemic is written by some of the world’s leading federal scholars and national experts.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented emergency for countries worldwide, including all those with a federal or hybrid-federal system of government, which account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population. With case studies from 19 federal countries, this book explores the core elements of federalism that came to the fore in combatting the pandemic: the division of responsibilities (disaster management, health care, social welfare, and education), the need for centralisation, and intergovernmental relations and cooperation. As the pandemic struck federal countries at roughly the same time, it provided a unique opportunity for comparative research on the question of how the various federal systems responded. The authors adopt a multidisciplinary approach to question whether federalism has been a help or a hindrance in tackling the pandemic. The value of the book lies in understanding how the Covid-19 pandemic affected federal dynamics and how it may have changed them, as well as providing useful lessons for how to combat such pandemics in federal countries in the future.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of politics and international relations, comparative federalism, health care, and disaster management.

The Open Access version of this book, available at, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

Table of Contents


Francesco Palermo


Introduction: How Federations Combat Covid-19

Nico Steytler

Part 1: Europe and Eurasia

1. Facing the Pandemic: Italy’s Functional ‘Health Federalism’ and Dysfunctional Cooperation

Elisabeth Alber, Erika Arban, Paolo Colasante, Adriano Dirri and Francesco Palermo

2. Decentralisation and Covid-19: Stress-testing the Spanish Territorial System

Mikel Erkoreka, Mireia Grau Creus and Mario Kölling

3. Germany’s Fight Against Covid-19: The Tension Between Central Regulation and Decentralised Management

Gisela Färber

4. Managing the Covid-19 Pandemic in Austria: From National Unity to a De Facto Unitary State?

Karl Kössler

5. Managing the Covid-19 Crisis in a Divided Belgian Federation: Cooperation Against All Odds

Patricia Popelier and Peter Bursens

6. Weak Institutions, Positive Results: The European Union’s Response to Covid-19

Beniamino Caravita, Simone Barbareschi, Francesco Severa, Sergio Spatola and Adriano Dirri

7. Managing the Coronavirus Pandemic in Switzerland: How Federalism went into Emergency Mode and Struggled to Get Out of It

Eva Maria Belser

8. The Covid-19 Pandemic in the United Kingdom: A Tale of Convergence and Divergence

Paul Anderson

9. Russia’s Fight Against Covid-19: Dealing with a Global Threat Under Crisis and Stagnation

Viacheslav Seliverstov, Ivan Leksin, Nataliya Kravchenko, Vladimir Klistorin and Almira Yusupova

Part 2: North America

10. American Federalism and Covid-19: Party Trumps Policy

John Kincaid and J. Wesley Leckrone

11. Facing the Coronavirus Pandemic in the Canadian Federation: Reinforced Dualism and Muted Cooperation?

Johanne Poirier and Jessica Michelin

12. Managing the Coronavirus Pandemic in a Centralised Federal System: The Case of Mexico

José María Serna de la Garza

Part 3: South America

13. Brazil and the Fight Against Covid-19: Strengthening State and Municipal Powers

Gilberto M. A. Rodrigues, Vanessa Elias de Oliveira, Marcelo Labanca Corrêa de Araújo and Sérgio Ferrari

14. Federalism and Covid-19 in Argentina: Centralisation and Hyper-Presidentialism

Antonio María Hernández and Cristian Altavilla

Part 4: Asia and Australia

15. Pandemic Governance in India: The Ongoing Shift to ‘National Federalism’

Ajay Kumar Singh

16. The Australian Federal Response to the Covid-19 Crisis: Momentary Success or Enduring Reform?

Nicholas Aroney and Michael Boyce

Part 5: Africa

17. Controlling Public Health Emergencies in Federal Systems: The Case of Ethiopia

Zemelak Ayitenew Ayele and Yonatan Tesfaye Fessha

18. South Africa: Surfing Towards Centralisation on the Covid-19 Wave

Nico Steytler, Jaap de Visser and Tinashe Chigwata

19. Managing Covid-19 in a ‘Façade Federalism’: The Case of Nigeria

Lukman Abdulrauf

Part 6: Conclusion

20. Grappling with the Pandemic: Rich Insights into Intergovernmental Relations

Cheryl Saunders

21. Federalism Under Pressure: Federal ‘Health’ Factors and ‘Co-morbidities’

Nico Steytler

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Nico Steytler is Professor of Public Law at the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and South African Research Chair in Multilevel Government, Law and Development. He is a former Commissioner of the Financial and Fiscal Commission, and former President of the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies. He has published widely on federalism, including The Value of Comparative Federalism: The Legacy of Ronald L. Watts (2021, co-edited), Decentralization and Constitutionalism in Africa (2019, co-edited); Concurrent Powers in Federal Systems: Meaning, Making, Managing (2017, edited); Kenyan-South African Dialogue on Devolution (2016, co-edited); and Local Government Law of South Africa (2007, co-authored).