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Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities as a Guiding Principle in International Health Law in Times of Pandemics

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Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2020

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Abstract

The corona-virus disease (COVID-19) is one of the worst pandemics in modern history, posing a continuing threat to global health, security and well-being. COVID-19 has exposed not only vulnerabilities of human species and imperfectness of medical science, but also serious flaws in both national and global health systems in preventing, managing and containing potential pandemics. The trans-boundary nature of COVID-19 makes it clear that pandemic preparedness and response is a common responsibility of all states. States shall take all appropriate and proportionate measures within their capacities to address public health emergencies, yet their capacities in doing so are substantially affected by both national and international circumstances. This chapter proposes common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities (CBDR-RC), a guiding principle in the international climate change regime, as the normative basis for defining differentiated responsibilities among all states for addressing public health threats. Adapting the CBDR-RC principle into international health regime particularly its legal regime has the potential to reinforce global health governance, strengthen global pandemic preparedness and response through international cooperation and solidarity, and protect the world from future pandemics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    WHO. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://covid19.who.int/.

  2. 2.

    WHO. COVID-19 vaccines. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-vaccines.

  3. 3.

    WHO. Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines (9 November 2020). Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines.

  4. 4.

    WHO. Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ Evaluation Process (9 November 2020). Accessed 10 November. 2021. https://extranet.who.int/pqweb/sites/default/files/documents/Status_COVID_VAX_11Nov2021.pdf.

  5. 5.

    Our World in Data. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.

  6. 6.

    Gostin et al. 2021, 1257–1258; Phelan et al. 2020, 800–802.

  7. 7.

    UN. WHO Chief Warns Against ‘Catastrophic Moral Failure’ in COVID-19 Vaccine Access. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/01/1082362.

  8. 8.

    GAVI. COVAX Explained. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/covax-explained.

  9. 9.

    GAVI. COVAX Vaccine Rollout. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.gavi.org/covax-vaccine-roll-out.

  10. 10.

    Ibid.

  11. 11.

    Usher 2021, 2322–2325.

  12. 12.

    UN. Secretary-General's remarks to the Annual Ministerial Meeting of the G77 and China. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-11-12/secretary-generals-remarks-the-annual-ministerial-meeting-of-the-g77-and-china-delivered.

  13. 13.

    Cinà et al. 2020.

  14. 14.

    Cinà et al. 2020; de Campos 2020, 212–214; Prah Ruger 2020, 44–54; Ho and Dascalu 2021, 34–50; Sekalala et al. 2020, 1–7.

  15. 15.

    Prah Ruger 2020.

  16. 16.

    de Campos 2020.

  17. 17.

    Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General Calls for 'One Health' Approach, Accessed 10 November 2021, https://www.undrr.org/news/who-director-general-calls-one-health-approach.

  18. 18.

    Cinà et al. 2020.

  19. 19.

    International Health Regulations (2005), entered into force 15 June 2007, Article 44.1.

  20. 20.

    Cinà et al. 2020.

  21. 21.

    United Nations, Charter of the United Nations, 24 October 1945, 1 UNTS XVI, Articles 1.3, 11 and 13.

  22. 22.

    UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, Article 2.1.

  23. 23.

    UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 3: The Nature of States Parties' Obligations (Article 2, para 1, of the Covenant), 14 December 1990, E/1991/23, para 14.

  24. 24.

    Supra note 22, Article 12.

  25. 25.

    UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Article 12 of the Covenant), 11 August 2000, E/C.12/2000/4, para 45.

  26. 26.

    Cinà et al. 2020.

  27. 27.

    Ibid.

  28. 28.

    Stone 2004, 276–301; Voigt and Ferreira 2016, 285–303. The principle of CBDRs has been well-entrenched, either explicit or implicit, in a number of international agreements, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its United Nations Framework Convention on Biodiversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

  29. 29.

    Ibid.

  30. 30.

    Rajamani 2016a, 129–150. Gupta and Sanchez 2013, 23–40.

  31. 31.

    Supra note 28.

  32. 32.

    1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1771 UNTS 107 (‘UNFCCC’).

  33. 33.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 133.

  34. 34.

    See for example Stone 2004; Voigt and Ferreira 2016; Rajamani 2016a, at 138; Cullet 2016, 305–328.

  35. 35.

    Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (‘Rio Declaration’), adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 3–14 June 1992, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. I), 12 August 1992. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_CONF.151_26_Vol.I_Declaration.pdf.

  36. 36.

    Rio Declaration, Principle 7; Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  37. 37.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 130.

  38. 38.

    Statement of the US on Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Report of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Vol. II: Proceedings of the Conference. UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (Vol. II) (1992).

  39. 39.

    United Nations Climate Change. What is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? Accessed 10 November 2021. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-convention/what-is-the-united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change.

  40. 40.

    Provisions of the UNFCCC that contain the CBDR-RC principle include preamble, Articles 3, 4, 5 and 7.

  41. 41.

    Annex I Parties include the industrialized countries that were members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1992, and countries with economies in transition (the EIT Parties), including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States. Annex II Parties consist of the OECD members of Annex I, but not the EIT Parties. They are required to provide financial resources to enable developing countries to undertake emissions reduction activities and to help them adapt to adverse effects of climate change. Non-Annex I Parties are mostly developing countries. See United Nations Climate Change. UNFCCC Process and Meetings. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://unfccc.int/process/parties-non-party-stakeholders/parties-convention-and-observer-states.

  42. 42.

    UNFCCC, Article 3.1.

  43. 43.

    UNFCCC, Articles 3.2 and 4.3.

  44. 44.

    1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2303 UNTS 162 (‘Kyoto Protocol’).

  45. 45.

    Kyoto Protocol, Article 10.

  46. 46.

    Ibid., Article 11.

  47. 47.

    Peel 2016, 245–254.

  48. 48.

    Pauw et al. 2019, 1–7.

  49. 49.

    Mayer 2018, 115–137.

  50. 50.

    Bodansky 2016, 288–319; Ferreira 2016, 329–351; Gupta and Sanchez 2013.

  51. 51.

    Paris Agreement, Dec. 1/CP.21 Annex, UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add.1 (2016) (‘Paris Agreement’).

  52. 52.

    Bodansky 2016.

  53. 53.

    Paris Agreement, preamble, Articles 2.2, 4.3 and 4.19.

  54. 54.

    Rajamani 2016b, 493–514.

  55. 55.

    Paris Agreement, Article 4.

  56. 56.

    Paris Agreement, Article 4.4.

  57. 57.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  58. 58.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 7.2, 7.3, 7.6, 7.7 and 7.10.

  59. 59.

    Bodansky 2016.

  60. 60.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 9.1 and 9.2.

  61. 61.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 9.3; Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  62. 62.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 4.5, 6.6 and 7.13.

  63. 63.

    Paris Agreement, Article 10.6.

  64. 64.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 11.1 and11.4.

  65. 65.

    Paris Agreement, Articles 13.9 and 13.10.

  66. 66.

    Ferreira 2016.

  67. 67.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016; Pauw et al. 2019.

  68. 68.

    Ibid.

  69. 69.

    Paris Agreement, preamble, Articles 2.2, 4.3 and 4.19.

  70. 70.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 129–150; Pauw et al. 2019.

  71. 71.

    Rajamani 2016b.

  72. 72.

    Pauw et al. 2019.

  73. 73.

    Bodansky 2016.

  74. 74.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  75. 75.

    Ibid.

  76. 76.

    Ibid.

  77. 77.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  78. 78.

    Rio Declaration, principle 7.

  79. 79.

    UNFCCC, preamble paras 1 and 6.

  80. 80.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  81. 81.

    UNFCCC, preamble para 3. The CBDR-RC is acknowledged in paragraph six of the preamble to the UNFCCC.

  82. 82.

    International Law Association, International Committee on Legal Aspects of Sustainable Development, Report of the Sixty-Sixth Conference (1995): 116; Kellersmann 2000, 335, cited in Rajamani 2016a, at 137–138.

  83. 83.

    International Law Association, International Committee on Legal Aspects of Sustainable Development, Report of the Sixty-Sixth Conference (1995): 116, cited in Rajamani 2016a, at 137–138.

  84. 84.

    Kellersmann 2000, 335, cited in Rajamani 2016a, at 137–138.

  85. 85.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 137–138.

  86. 86.

    IPCC 2014a.

  87. 87.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 136–150.

  88. 88.

    Mayer 2018.

  89. 89.

    IPCC 2014a.

  90. 90.

    IPCC 2014b, at 5.

  91. 91.

    Rajamani 2016a, at 164.

  92. 92.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016.

  93. 93.

    Voigt and Ferreira 2016; Cullet 2016.

  94. 94.

    Peel 2016.

  95. 95.

    Supra note 1.

  96. 96.

    WHO. Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/news/item/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov); WHO. WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020.

  97. 97.

    Yuan et al. 2020, 484–494.

  98. 98.

    Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly. WHO’s Work in Health Emergencies: Strengthening preparedness for health emergencies: implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005). A74/9 Add.1.

  99. 99.

    Cullet 2016.

  100. 100.

    WHO. A year without precedent: WHO’s COVID-19 Response. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/a-year-without-precedent-who-s-covid-19-response.

  101. 101.

    WHO. The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Accessed 10 November 2021. https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator.

  102. 102.

    Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, opened for signature 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331 (entered into force 27 January 1980).

  103. 103.

    WHO Constitution, Articles 21 and 22.

  104. 104.

    International Health Regulations, Article 2.

  105. 105.

    WHO Constitution, Article 21.

  106. 106.

    Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies, ZERO DRAFT Report of the Member States Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and Response to Health Emergencies to the special session of the World Health Assembly. A/WGPR/4/3, 28 October 2021.

  107. 107.

    The Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) during the COVID-19 Response was convened by the Director-General on 8 September 2020 at the request of Member States in resolution WHA73.1 (2020), and in line with Article 50 of the International Health Regulations (2005).

  108. 108.

    Gostin et al. 2021.

  109. 109.

    Supra note 107.

  110. 110.

    Dew 2012.

  111. 111.

    Magnan 2017.

  112. 112.

    Donkin et al. 2017, 1–7.

  113. 113.

    Abrams and Szefler 2020, 659–661; Ahmed et al. 2020, e240.

  114. 114.

    Gostin et al. 2021.

  115. 115.

    WHO. Seventy-Fourth World Health Assembly: Special Session of the World Health Assembly to Consider Developing a WHO Convention, Agreement or Other International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness and Response. WHA74(16). 31 May 2021.

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Acknowledgements

The current chapter is a part of “Challenges in Global Health Governance and China’s Health Law Responses”. Funded by The National Social Science Fund of China (20CFX018, 2020.9-2022.12).

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Wang, C., Zhang, Y. (2022). Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities as a Guiding Principle in International Health Law in Times of Pandemics. In: den Heijer, M., van der Wilt, H. (eds) Netherlands Yearbook of International Law 2020. Netherlands Yearbook of International Law, vol 51. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-527-0_9

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