Pandemics and Other Health Emergencies
Oxford Handbook of International Law and Global Security, Forthcoming
22 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2020 Last revised: 28 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 27, 2020
This chapter presents a critical analysis of the international law and institutions responsible for ensuring global health security. In 2005, the members of the World Health Organization adopted a thoroughly revised set of International Health Regulations, establishing an innovative and binding legal framework for declaring and responding to global health emergencies. At the heart of the Regulations was a particular conception of global health “security,” which emphasized the early identification of health threats, and a coordinated global response that avoided undue interference with trade, travel, or human rights. In practice, the WHO has struggled to live up to these ideals, as it is unable to ensure that governments provide accurate information about disease outbreaks or to prevent unduly harsh responses when disease outbreaks are publicized. At the same time, the WHO has struggled to resolve the tension between expert advice and political discretion that lies at the heart of the Regulations. And it has faced competition from other institutions involved in pandemic response and from alternative normative visions of global health security. This chapter excavates these key tensions and identifies directions for further research and reflection.
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will provide an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the foundations of the international regime for global health security. This rethinking requires a clear understanding of the existing legal and institutional framework, and of the the lessons already learned from previous crises.
Keywords: Global health law, security, International Health Regulations, World Health Organization, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, COVID-19, coronavirus
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