The Stellenbosch Consensus on the International Legal Obligation to Collaborate and Assist in Addressing Pandemics: Clarifying Article 44 of the International Health Regulations
International Organizations Law Review (2020), DOI No: 10.1163/15723747-2020024
32 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2020 Last revised: 8 Jan 2021
Date Written: December 2, 2020
The International Health Regulations (IHR), of which the World Health Organization is custodian, govern how countries collectively promote global health security, including prevention, detection, and response to potential global health emergencies such as the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. While Article 44 of this binding legal instrument requires countries to collaborate and assist each other in meeting their respective obligations, recent events demonstrate that the precise nature and scope of these legal obligations are ill-understood. A shared understanding of the level and type of collaboration legally required by the IHR is a necessary step in ensuring these obligations can be acted upon and fully realized, and in fostering global solidarity and resilience in the face of future pandemics. In this consensus statement, public international law scholars specializing in global health consider the legal meaning of Article 44 using the interpretive framework of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Keywords: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties; treaty interpretation; international health regulations; international organizations; World Health Organization; international duty to assist; global health governance; international human rights law
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