GSL Researchers Co-Author Special Issue of International Organizations Law Review: Reforming The International Health Regulations

On June 29th, guest editors Gian Luca Burci, Lisa Forman, and Steven Hoffman led the development of a special issue of along with co-authors Roojin Habibi Link and GSL research fellow Sophie Campbell Link among others. This issue explores normative and institutional dynamics through International Health Regulations (IHR) reform.

In their Introduction Link , the guest editors write that the IHR is a particularly interesting instrument at the crossroads of international law, the law of international organizations, and complex governance questions on how to produce a global public good such as the protection of humankind from the ravages of infectious diseases.

As scholarly and diplomatic multilateral discussions around IHR reform and the negotiation of a new pandemic treaty accelerate, the authors of this special issue hope that it will contribute to clarifying the meaning and scope of some key provisions of the IHR, their position within WHO’s governance, as well as to offer some fresh ideas on a number of issues requiring both legal and institutional solutions.

The International Health Regulations as a WHO Constitutional Instrument: Internal Governance and Regime Interactions

The first article Link of the special issue, co-authored by Gian Luca Burci and Stefania Negri, discusses internal governance and regime interactions of the IHR. The authors contend that the political crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need for a different and more political approach that injects states in the governance of the IHR, following models tested by other international agreements.

The World Health Organization, International Health Regulations and Human Rights Law

The second article Link by Lisa Forman, Sharifah Sekalala, and Benjamin Mason Meier examines the influence of human rights law on the 2005 revision of the IHR. The authors discuss how resolving the failure of the 2005 IHR to reflect economic, social and cultural rights and connect to the UN human rights system will require both normative and institutional reforms that bring together human rights and global health governance, including through broader rights-based partnerships among international organizations.

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Powers: Enhancing its Legal and Institutional Accountability

The third article Link  by Mark Eccleston-Turner and Pedro Villarreal looks at the WHO’s emergency powers, and then evaluates to whom the WHO owes accountability as an international institution and how this accountability can be enhanced. Using past and ongoing events, this article analyzes how the WHO Director-General’s emergency decision-making powers gave way to different modes of accountability, both within and beyond the organization.

The Stellenbosch Consensus on Legal National Responses to Public Health Risks

The fourth article Link by Roojin Habibi and colleagues, available open access, is the first of two consensus statements from members of the GHLC. Using the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, this statement seeks to clarify Article 43 of the IHR, which governs national responses to public health risks or emergencies of international concern. A shared understanding of the measures legally permitted by Article 43 is a necessary step in ensuring the fulfillment of obligations, and fostering global solidarity and resilience in the face of future pandemics.

The Stellenbosch Consensus on the International Legal Obligation to Collaborate and Assist in Addressing Pandemics

The fifth article Link  by Margherita Cina and colleagues, available open access, is the second of two consensus statements published in this special issue. Again, it uses the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to clarify Article 44 of the IHR, which governs the international legal obligation to collaborate and assist in addressing public health risks and emergencies. A shared understanding of the level and type of collaboration legally required by the IHR is a necessary step in ensuring obligations can be acted upon and fully realized.

One Health and Pathogen Sharing: Filling the Gap in the International Health Regulations to Strengthen Global Pandemic Preparedness and Response

The sixth article Link  by Stefania Negri and Mark Eccleston-Turner identifies the gaps in the IHR from a One Health perspective and with respect to pathogen sharing that is needed to strengthen global pandemic preparedness and response. The authors pinpoint important institutional and normative elements that are missing in the current IHR and look to how other regimes within the international legal landscape have sought to fill these kind of gaps.

Strengthening the Monitoring of States’ Compliance with the International Health Regulations

The seventh article Link  by Pedro Villarreal, Allyn Taylor and Roojin Habibi aims at engaging in both a retrospective and a prospective approach towards the monitoring of compliance with the IHR. Focusing on a ‘triad’ of obligations present in IHR Articles 5, 6, 13, and 43, the authors engage retrospectively by revisiting the fate of past and current mechanisms of compliance monitoring and prospectively by detailing the possible way forward.

Mending Dispute Resolution under the International Health Regulations

The eighth article Link  by Steven Hoffman, Pedro Villarreal, Roojin Habibi and Sophie Campbell, available open access, discusses dispute resolution under the IHR. While a diverse range of dispute resolution mechanisms exist in other legal regimes, this article proposes that a three-pronged architecture consisting of a guidance mechanism, formal adjudicative mechanism, and recourse to binding arbitration and the International Court of Justice would provide for the most efficient and timely response to a dispute between states parties.

It is then timely that discussions made by the World Health Assembly (WHA) and WHO focus on amending IHR and strengthen it through interpretive and institutional measures.

This special issue of IOLRJournal explores the normative and institutional dynamics mentioned above through the IHR reform. As discussions around a new IHR reform accelerate, the articles contained in this special issue hope to contribute to the decisions made around the matter.

Read the special issue here:


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