Current Developments

The governance of disease outbreaks in international health law

From Ebola to COVID-19 (Part II)

In the first part of this two-part post, we broadly addressed the legal framework provided by the International Health Regulations (IHR), a binding legal instrument within the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO). In the following subsections, we turn to two more legal dimensions, which were directly at stake during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola crisis and are also present in the COVID-19 pandemic, namely: 1) the role played …

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Current Developments

The governance of disease outbreaks in international health law

From Ebola to COVID-19 (Part I)

A deadly virus starts spreading in several communities. Reports are issued warning of the potential fallout if no action is taken. Yet both national authorities, as well as the WHO, the United Nations as such, and the international community as a whole are subjected to harsh criticism for ignoring the initial warning signs. Had they acted sooner, some say, more lives could have been saved. An overreliance on epidemiological assessments …

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Current Developments

Is the spread of Coronavirus already a pandemic?

Unpacking a (legal) definition

On 26 February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the current spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) “has pandemic potential”. That is, despite the fact that the virus was already reported in all continents except Antarctica, there was still no reason to use the “P” word. He further clarified that declaring it as such would not carry any benefit, rather would only “increase fear and …

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Current Developments

The 2019-2020 novel coronavirus outbreak and the importance of good faith for international law

The 2019-2020 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak first identified in Wuhan, China currently stands at the center of the international community’s focus. The World Health Organization (WHO) issues daily situation reports on the virus’ spread. Alternatively, other sources are constantly being updated thanks to almost real-time tracking technology (see also the website created by members of the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering). At the time of writing, the …

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Current DevelopmentsResponse

The Direct Justiciability of the Right to Health at the IACtHR

What is the Added Value?

In a previous post, Lucas Sánchez discussed how the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) recently found, for the first time, a direct violation of the right to health in the case of Poblete Vilches vs. Chile. His post examines the shift from an indirect towards a direct justiciability regarding the violation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESC Rights) established in Article 26 of the American Convention on Human …

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Current Developments

Stretching Abstract Reasoning to its Limits

The IACtHR and the Right to a Healthy Environment

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued the Advisory Opinion (AO) of 15 November, 2017 (OC-23/17), on the subject matter of the environment and human rights. Its wide-ranging features already sparked a lively debate in the blogosphere (see here, here and here). Whereas some welcome the Court’s engagement with environmental rights, others are either skeptical of the way in which the AO deals with criteria of state responsibility in human …

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International Health GovernanceSymposium

The WHO’s Institutional and Legal Role in Communicable Disease Epidemics

From Pandemic Influenza to Zika

On 1 February, 2016, the World Health Organization´s (WHO) Director-General declared that the Zika virus epidemic in the Americas is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The illness caused by this virus is very rarely fatal, and it causes mild symptoms: rash, headaches, conjunctivitis, sometimes fever and joint pains. Besides, an estimated 80% of cases are asymptomatic, which makes it next to impossible to establish an exact number …

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DiscussionKick-off

Reforms of the World Health Organization in light of the Ebola crisis in West Africa

More delegation, more teeth?

The 68th World Health Assembly took place from 18 to 26 May, 2015. The Assembly is the maximum decision-making organ of the World Health Organization (WHO). In this forum, there were calls for institutional reform in light of the belated response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. More recently, an Ebola Interim Assessment Panel Report was published, containing concrete proposals to reform some of WHO’s legal mechanisms for health …

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