On 30 March 2021, the leaders of 25 States, the European Union and the World Health Organization published an article endorsing the idea of a treaty to coordinate international responses to pandemics. This proposal will be considered at a special session of the World Health Assembly in November.
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Volterra Fietta has been proud to provide thought leadership in support of the creation of an effective multilateral treaty to facilitate effective global responses to future pandemics (see here, here and here).
The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations (the “IHRs”) are not designed to ensure the kind of legally binding global cooperation and coordination required to control and confront global pandemics. The IHRs have failed to prevent States from: (i) withholding vital information; (ii) sealing off their borders; and (iii) engaging in uncooperative actions in relation to vaccines and other medical supply. Whilst the IHRs discourage that type of behaviour, its provisions are not actually enforceable. For example, a number of its provisions are not mandatory, and others are so broadly phrased that they effectively allow States to interpret them at will. What is more, the IHRs lack mechanisms to ensure compliance.
In April 2020, Volterra Fietta proposed the creation of an effective treaty on pandemic suppression so as to redress those deficiencies. The Convention on Pandemic Suppression first envisaged by the firm would contain clear, mandatory and enforceable standards for global cooperation in pandemic suppression. It would reference science-based standards and interpretations. Its implementation would involve binding third-party monitoring. And it would provide for binding mechanisms to settle disputes and ensure enforcement of its provisions. Public international law has the tools required to fashion such an instrument, as long as there is sufficient political will on the part of governments.
Perhaps the time has come.