It’s time to reconsider declarations of states of emergency for protracted crises » Publications » Washington Policy Center


Sometimes when you see a study, you cry tears of joy. This is one of those times. The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law is ending the extensive use of emergency powers across the globe, even as the COVID pandemic enters an endemic phase. Their experts recommend emergency powers reforms.

According to the new study from the O’Neill Institute:

  • “While these laudable goals may justify the use of emergency powers, what happens when the threat is no longer a short-term emergency? As parts of the world begin to gradually return to some semblance of normalcy, disease models predict that SARS-CoV-2 could continue to circulate for some time. Although emergency declarations can be useful tools for managing short-term crises, they should be scrutinized to ensure that they do not contribute to democratic backsliding.
  • “The clusters of cases that will emerge are now expected and predictable – no longer meeting this definition of emergency – and could be contained by a more narrowly tailored approach than a declaration of a state of emergency.”
  • “However, the lifting of the state of emergency should not depend on the complete eradication of COVID-19. Prolonged states of emergency, especially in the context of inequitable distribution of vaccines, will not only continue to stratify public health outcomes, but may also extend to the health of civic, political, and democratic institutions.
  • “Where states of emergency are necessary, governments should consider adopting emergency declarations that include sunset clauses or expiry dates, as extending such declarations may require both the executive and action by other branches of government, providing protection against democratic regression. Protracted states of emergency can have a stifling effect on key democratic principles, including democratic debate, discussion and participation, even when used in the most benevolent and well-intentioned way. The prolonged use of heavy legal tools is concerning and needs to be looked at closely.
  • “We, as a global community, should demand that governments be prepared to place limits on their own powers, making emergency declarations the exception rather than the rule.”

Can I get an amen?

Further information
Why Washington State Needs Emergency Powers Reform (Video)
How should the WA State reform its emergency powers? (radio interview)


Comments are closed.