Virtual Seminar: COVID-19 and Creation of a Convention on Pandemic Suppression (COPS)

The COVID-19 pandemic has already had devastating effects on States, populations and the world’s economy.  International organisations, States and individual experts are working tirelessly to contain the wide-ranging consequences of this pandemic.  However, it is not clear whether or how their tireless efforts are being coordinated.  Indeed, there is mounting evidence that a number of States are working at cross-purposes.  At the same time, a number of governments in the Americas, Europe and Asia are already acting in beggar-thy-neighbour ways.  These have very significant, long-term adverse consequences potentially for the global cooperation necessary to detect and suppress future global pandemics.

At present, the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations (2005) are the primary international instrument that addresses the international spread of infectious diseases.  They have provided useful guidance to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  But this crisis has raised legitimate concerns about whether or not international law tools with more force and effect are needed.  Areas in which scientists, medical personnel and public health officials identify as urgently needing an improved global-level response include: early detection of outbreaks; inter-State sharing of information and technology resources; funding of development of States’ core capabilities to prevent and contain international spread of infectious diseases; and effective mechanisms to monitor compliance with, and enforce, international law obligations.

One comprehensive legal answer to these concerns might well be for States to subscribe to a multilateral, global Convention on Pandemic Suppression.  This virtual seminar provided an opportunity to discuss some of these issues.

This virtual seminar featured a panel of multi-disciplinary experts from around the world, with expertise in medicine and public health; government policy and legislation; human rights; and public international law:

Robert G. Volterra, Partner at Volterra Fietta and visiting professor of law at University College London.  Mr Volterra advises and represents governments, international organisations and private clients on a wide range of public international law issues.  He is on the UK Attorney General’s A-list for public international law practitioners.

Álvaro Nistal, Counsel at Volterra Fietta.  He advises States, international organisations and private entities on a wide range of public international law matters, including States in proceedings before the International Court of Justice.

Polly Price, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law and Professor of Global Health in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, USA.  Her upcoming book entitled “Plagues in the Nation” considers the US Government’s responses to plagues of the past and future.

Pedro Villarreal, Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Germany. He is a member of the International Law Association’s Committee on Global Health Law and has published on legal issues arising from COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Fabien Schneider, Senior Program Manager at Médecins Sans Frontières. He has worked for over 25 years in the management and operation of medical and non-medical programs in the public health and the humanitarian sectors.

Dr. Nancy Dale, Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. She has extensive field experience responding to medical emergencies in humanitarian and conflict settings.

Thana de Campos, Assistant Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile.  She is a research associate at the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights and specialises in global bioethics, the right to health and global health governance.

Martins Paparinskis, Reader in Public International Law at University College London, UK. He is a member of the implementation committee of the UNECE Water Convention, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

Olipa Jere, Senior Parliamentary Counsel at the Attorney General’s Office of the Government of Zambia. She is an expert in legislative drafting and a board member of the National Health Research Board.


For any queries regarding the content of the seminar, please email