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Why the rush? A call for critical reflection on the legal and human rights implications of a potential new international treaty on pandemics

Background: the push for an international treaty on pandemics At the close of the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) on the 1st of June 2021, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director-General remarked: ‘One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us, but we will still face the same vulnerabilities that allowed a small outbreak to become a global pandemic … That’s why the one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response.’ In fact, world leaders had announced already in March 2021 that only a new treaty is capable of preparing the world for the next pandemic. Concretely, the WHA decided to hold a special session already at the end of 2021 for: ‘considering the benefits of developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response with a view towards the…

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From Eunomia To Eusophia: Planning a better future for the human world

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired much wide and deep thought about the human condition. A global phenomenon, like climate change, it has challenged deep-structural aspects of the organisation of the world.   It has challenged nationalism in requiring a cross-national response, at the level of policy and in complex practical measures. It has challenged established relationships between…

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Some Vaccination Questions, Ethical and Legal

It’s difficult to think of a more pressing problem today than how scarce coronavirus vaccines should be distributed between and within states. Newspapers are full of discussions of ‘vaccine nationalism,’ of the EU-UK-Astra Zeneca row, or of the limited availability of vaccines in the developing world. For us as international lawyers, obviously, the further issue – one to…

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Equitable COVID Vaccine Distribution and Access: Enforcing International Legal Obligations under Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Right to Development

Editor's Note: This post was prepared in advance of my remarks for the 12 February 2021 Global Webinar of the Notre Dame Eck Institute of Global Health ("Are we all in this together? Assessing and addressing equitable access and distributive justice in global supply chains during major disease outbreaks").  By this time, US pharmaceutical companies…

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ICJ Jurisdiction over Obligations to Share Information with the WHO

It has been almost a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and many parts of the world are still suffering deaths, disease, and lockdowns despite the advent of vaccines. Yet little has happened in terms of international responsibility, even if the blogosphere has produced…

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