Written by and

We are pulled in opposite directions in the face of a global upending of normal life. We find it attractive, even if hunkered down at home, as is our whole editorial team, in six different countries, to continue serenely our normal work in the face of a-normalcy. The life of the mind, the scholarly endeavor continues – even when juggled with caring responsibilities – not least as an act of faith in better times to come. Unlike war – a metaphor which is widely used and abused – we are not faced by the actions of evil men and women against whom one should rise in indignant protest. Yes, incompetence and irresponsibility might have played a role, but one should not rush to throw the first stone. With time such issues can be and will be sorted out.

And yet, in the face of spreading death and imploding economic circumstances on a truly global scale, continuing as if nothing is happening borders on the callous. That grave consideration apart, there are obvious issues of international governance and international law for which EJIL should be a forum for serious reflection. Do we wait till the dust settles, the crisis is overcome and then turn with distance and perspective to serious and rigorous reflection and analysis? In some respects, one does not have that luxury – there are issues happening in real time which will not wait for that perspectival reflection.

It is our fortune at EJIL that we do not have to face that choice. EJIL Talk! is not a locus of gossip and emotive ‘from the hip’ commentary. It is a forum, as is proven week in and week out, for brief but incisive legal commentary, oftentimes of the indispensable doctrinal genre (legal or illegal) in which immediate reactions to the COVID-19 crisis have already appeared and will continue to appear. Blogposts have covered wide-ranging aspects of the crisis, from the (not) functioning of the World Health Organization to the human rights dimensions of states’ responses and from possibilities to sue states for their deficient responses to the trade and intellectual properties dimensions (for an overview, see here). International law aspects of COVID-19 were also the focus of the latest experiment of the EJIL family: the EJIL: Podcast. The first two episodes of the podcast attracted just on 7,500 downloads across the globe. The deeper conceptual and theoretical, doctrinal and otherwise, reflection will appear organically in EJIL as time passes and the community of scholars engage with this perspectival dimension to our work.

EJIL is a community – of readers and authors. Keep Safe!

We would like to end by publishing here, with the permission of the poetess, Lynn Ungar ( her evocative poem Pandemic. It speaks for itself.


Lynn Unger

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.



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