Current Developments

Between the body and the politic

Reading recommendations on epidemics, international law, and history – Part II

Herlihy writes of the Black Death, “the plague caused divisions between the healthy and the sick, those in the cultural mainstream and those in the margins… and between the mass of society and its cultural leaders”. Those in the margins of society included strangers, travelers, beggars, lepers, Jews, the poor… the list goes on. Towns routinely closed their gates to all outsiders. During the plague of the 1890s, the medical …

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Current Developments

Between the body and the politic

Reading recommendations on epidemics, international law, and history – Part I

The mute substratum of political life. This is how Clifford Owens describes the body. When things are going well, it silently slips into the background of public life. When the body becomes threatened, however, it transforms into “the source of the most profound disturbances in the political field”. After all, we humans are, despite our highest ethical ideals and furthest scientific advances, still inescapably tethered to our bodies. Our physical …

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BofaxeCurrent Developments

Leaving no one behind?

Special needs in times of COVID-19

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, the rights and special needs of persons with disabilities are once again neglected dramatically. It is bitterly unsurprising that the topic arrived on the agenda of international policy makers only when UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, criticized the lack of awareness and resulting inaction in mid-March. UNICEF was finally the first international organization to publish considerations on children …

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Current Developments

India’s battle against Covid-19: The lockdown of human rights

India is currently facing the largest lockdown in the world, with over 1.3 billion people locked inside their homes. While Prime Minister Modi adopted this measures to “win the battle” against the Covid-19 pandemic, a large portion of the country is left wondering if their well-being was also accounted for in the hasty decisions of the Government. In a bid to flatten the curve, the Indian government seems to have …

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Book ReviewResponse

Global information governance in pandemic times

In the geopolitics of global health information, international institutional law is more important than ever

The main argument of my book, which we are discussing in this symposium, is that international institutions are not only diplomatic fora, lawmakers or financiers, but also act and govern through information, knowledge and expertise. Their informational activities are governed by a body of law that strikes an uneasy balance between international cooperation, state sovereignty and individual rights. This balance is becoming all the more salient in times of a …

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Book ReviewKick-off

Governing the world through information (law)

Knowledge is power – power is knowledge. While this nexus certainly is a commonplace in the critical sociology of knowledge, it may actually never have been more topical than today. With the dramatic increase of (digital) communicative interactions within and beyond national boundaries, ‘information’ has become available in an absolute inflationary manner. This is also reflected in everyday discourse: The German Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (Association for the German Language) …

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Call for ContributionsCurrent DevelopmentsIL in Times of Pandemics

Call for Contributions: International law in pandemic times

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis of global dimension. With numerous countries imposing shut-downs, closing their borders and limiting international trade and cooperation, the crisis in some ways appears to have prompted a return of the nation state that seemed unimaginable only weeks ago and has already given rise to the question whether we are currently witnessing the end of globalization (see on this here and here). International …

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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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Bernard Spragg, Diamond Princess, Flickr, CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Current Developments

40 days and 40 nights

Human rights in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and quarantines

The word ‘quarantine’ is rooted in the practice of quaranta giorni, which meant isolating ships arriving from infected ports for 40 days. For ages, countries have dressed the curtailment of individual liberties in the garb of safeguarding public health, and the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is no different. Infected, symptomatic and even asymptomatic people are facing a violation of their privacy, inordinate restrictions on their movement and risk of infection …

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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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