The Legal Response to Pandemics

The Strengths and Weaknesses of the International Health Regulations

In: Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Gian Luca Burci Adjunct Professor of International Law Academic Adviser; Global Health Centre Director; Joint LLM in Global Health Law and Governance; Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

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The pandemic of ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2’ (sars-CoV-2) has raised unprecedented challenges for most international legal and policy regimes and we cannot yet foresee its long-term consequences. The legal and institutional regime to prevent and control the international spread of disease, based on the World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations (ihr 2005) has also been severely tested. Critics have challenged who’s apparent politicization and the ineffectiveness of the ihr 2005 as a tool to coordinate the international response to covid-19. The ihr 2005 have codified the operational model of the who Secretariat at the time of their revision, but the assumptions about who’s epistemic authority and the willingness of states parties to conform to who’s lead have proven overoptimistic. Still, addressing some of the major weaknesses of the ihr 2005 could give them renewed momentum and nudge states towards a more coordinated and effective response to epidemics.

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