To Declare or Not to Declare: The Controversy Over Declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 287-330, September 2019

44 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2019

See all articles by David P. Fidler

David P. Fidler

Washington University School of Law

Date Written: September 27, 2019

Abstract

Recommendations by the Emergency Committee operating under the International Health Regulations (2005) (hereinafter “IHR”) that the Director-General of the World Health Organization should not declare the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern sparked a sustained controversy in global health. The controversy exposed disagreements about the meaning and effectiveness of IHR provisions, the scope of the Emergency Committee’s authority, and utility of the Director-General’s power to declare a public health emergency of international concern. This article analyzes this controversy from its beginnings in October 2018 through the Director-General’s declaration in July 2019 that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo constituted a public health emergency of international concern. The article argues that the controversy inflicted serious damage on the IHR because the Emergency Committee abused its authority under the IHR and acted outside the authority the IHR prescribes for this committee. The damage done, and the manner in which it happened, raises bigger questions about the IHR’s meaning, influence, and future in global health governance.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Director-General, Ebola, Emergency Committee, Global Health Governance, International Health Regulations, Public Health Emergency of International Concern, Temporary Recommendations, Trade and Travel Measures, World

Suggested Citation

Fidler, David P., To Declare or Not to Declare: The Controversy Over Declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (September 27, 2019). Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 287-330, September 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3460190

David P. Fidler (Contact Author)

Washington University School of Law ( email )

United States

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