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Aim for global pandemic treaty, IBA urges
Pic: RollingNews.ie

29 Oct 2021 / covid-19 Print

Aim for global pandemic treaty, IBA urges

A report from the International Bar Association (IBA) has called for a global treaty to improve the management of future pandemics.

The report, released earlier this week, was carried out by a task force on COVID-19 legal policy that looked at the effect of the virus in several key legal areas.

While it described a global treaty as “a long-term goal”, the analysis also made a number of recommendations aimed at improving existing systems for dealing with pandemics.

“The pandemic has laid bare the disparity between disparate legal regimes,” said IBA vice-president Almudena Arpón de Mendívil stated. “Although some are proving effective, others are sorely inadequate,” she added.

Multilateral agreements

The report called for countries to pursue multilateral agreements in areas where a global consensus was more likely to be achieved quickly, including:

  • Faster scientific reporting of pandemic outbreaks, without political interference, enabling the investigation of pandemic causes, and enactment of laws averting their recurrence,
  • Harmonisation of border controls, travel, airport entries, customs, import-export rules, and transport – including the establishment of an international protocol for advance communication of border closures,
  • Harmonisation of laws regulating therapeutics and vaccines for fast-track approval, and reciprocal international recognition of national approvals and registrations, and
  • The establishment of a pandemic authority in each country, regulating the communication between countries, strengthening the transfer of knowledge, isolated from political interference, and reviewing the role of the World Health Organization (WHO).

As well as its more general focus, the report made suggestions in several specific areas affected by the pandemic.

The group stressed, however, that its recommendations were designed to be implemented in the industrially developed world “by countries in possession of a sophisticated legal framework”, and that they might not be suitable for developing countries.

It proposed a simplified system of approval for therapeutics, diagnostics, tests, treatments, and vaccines – through quicker emergency regulatory clearance and reciprocal international recognition of approvals.

‘International remote worker’

The IBA group also suggested that the international exchange of anonymised or de-identified digital health data should be legally authorised.

It called for a relaxation of consent requirements to allow the implementation of contact tracing, and for the storing of contact-tracing data with an independent authority, solely accessible by national healthcare authorities.

On employment, the report proposed that the legal status of “the international remote worker” be defined, and called for global minimum social-security safeguards.

Travel restrictions

The task force argued that derogations from the principle of free movement of people, enshrined in multilateral treaties and international human-rights law, should be limited.

It added that measures such as border closures, travel bans, and travel restrictions should be used only where they were proportionate, evidence-based, and clearly outweighed the social and economic damage caused.

“The WHO should play a leading role in reviewing the use and misuse of travel bans, and provide clear guidance on suitable and proportionate measures,” the report urged.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland