Pandemics, Planetary Health and Human Rights

Rethinking the Duty to Cooperate in the Face of Compound Global Crises

In: Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law Online
Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh null

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Global solidarity and international cooperation are key to addressing compound global crises – such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pandemics – effectively. It remains unclear, however, to what extent, and on what legal basis, solidarity and international cooperation constitute legal obligations of States under different branches of international law. Questions also persist about the extent to which and how States’ obligations of international cooperation are differentiated; what common and differentiated obligations entail in practice for States at different levels of development; and how potential conflicts between different types of obligations (e.g. territorial and extraterritorial human rights obligations) must be addressed. This article seeks to unpack these questions from the perspective of international human rights law, giving due consideration to relevant principles and provisions of international environmental agreements. It builds on international law scholarship that has explained how and why the provisions of the UN Charter should be interpreted as creating genuine membership duties, including an obligation to cooperate to realise human rights. Further, it builds on more recent scholarship that has explored how this obligation applies in connection with climate change and biodiversity, and on a nascent body of scholarship on the covid- 19 crisis, human rights and international law. The aim of the article is to explore the role of the principle of solidarity and the duty to cooperate to realise human rights in devising more effective and holistic responses to compound global crises.

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