Regional cooperation is important for securing infectious disease outbreak containment. The Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014-2015 showed we are a long way from achieving strong international cooperation for disease outbreak response. Attention wanes when the “world” is not threatened. The present Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed more than 1,000 people; but for now, the World Health Organization (WHO) maintains it does not require the type of international coordinated emergency response we saw in 2014-2015.

It is because of international coordinated engagement – and funding – in health security during “health peacetime” (the absence of an international outbreak emergency) that regional cooperation is vital. Regional cooperation can have its flaws – deeper familiarity with member states creates a reluctance to criticise your neighbors. However, on the flipside of these close relations are mutual interests, concerns and language. Southeast Asian states reporting behavior has changed over since the implementation of the revised International Health Regulations (IHR) in 2005. Effective regional cooperation comes from regular interaction and the normalisation of communication between local health care workers and mid-ranking Ministry of Health officials, as well as senior political leaders. Some states will attempt to conceal outbreaks but more regional cooperation, not less, will be the force that persuades these states to open up and report.

Please click here to read the full “Containing contagion: The politics of disease outbreaks in South East Asia” article at Australian Outlook, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Associate Professor Sara E Davies.

This article is an extract from Sara E Davies’ new book Containing Contagion which she launched on 2 April with AIIA National.