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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IL in Pandemic TimesSymposium

Vulnerability in times of Corona

Guidelines from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the Right to Health

Two years ago, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Court) issued a seminal ruling regarding the right to health established in Article 26 of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR). For the first time ever, it held a State Party to be internationally responsible for not guaranteeing non-discriminatory access to health services (previously discussed here and here). In the same case, the Court also established the justiciability of the …

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Current Developments

The role of soft law in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases

In an increasingly globalised world, health issues transcend the domain of national legislation. This holds true not only for infectious diseases, as seen with the current outbreak of the Corona-Virus, but also for non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, cancer, obesity or cardiovascular diseases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the latter are the leading global cause of death by killing 41 million people each year worldwide. A considerable …

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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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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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Call for ContributionsCurrent DevelopmentsIL in Pandemic Times

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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