HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, September 20, 2021

COVID-19 Pandemic, the World Health Organization, and Global Health Policy

Cosmas Emeziem, COVID-19 Pandemic, the World Health Organization, and Global Health Policy, 33 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. (2021):

The emergence and quick spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus and dynamics of the debates about global health, international law, and policy. This shift has overshadowed many of the other controversies in the international sphere. It has also highlighted the tensions that often exist in international affairs—especially in understanding the place and purpose of international institutions, vis-à-vis states, in the general schema of public international law. Central to the international response to the current pandemic is the World Health Organization (WHO)—a treaty-based organization charged with the overarching mandate of ensuring “the highest possible level of health” for all peoples.1 Interestingly, the WHO has also become entangled in a foreign policy spat between China and the United States of America. This work explores the public international law aspects of the WHO and why we should focus on its primary policy mandate and avoid unduly heaving the institution into perennial strategic policy games of states. It argues against turning such an illustrious institution, charged with a peculiar mandate, into an arena of zero-sum competitions amongst states. The hope is that this paper will provide crucial insights and assist legal and policy experts in understanding the organization, insulating it from unnecessary strategic games of powerful states, and ensuring the continued and effective delivery of global health policy through the WHO.

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