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Covid-19 a new diplomatic blame game: Need for a New International System
The author of this blog is Khushi, 2nd-year student at Ramaiah College of Law, Bengaluru.
An International System is so
fragile that a disease that spread in one area of one country spread like fire
across the globe and shut down the whole International System with a great loss
to the global economy, diplomatic tension between countries, disturbance in the
supply chain (fall of domestic and international trade), uncontrolled the circumstance that lead to opposing the existing government and
question the very foundation of International law. International law is a set
of rules, agreement, norms, and treaties binding sovereign states and other
entities that are legally recognized as international actors (the nations which
take part and promote international relations) to achieve peace, justice, trade
and friendly relations between nations.
COVID-19, which is mainly caused by
the virus named 'Novel Coronavirus' or as suggested by USA "Chinese
virus". The virus is named Novel Coronavirus because of its crown-like
outer structure. The USA named it "Chinese Virus" as this virus is claimed
to originate in China, in the city of Wuhan, to which China claims that the virus originated from the wet animal market which was illegally operated in
Wuhan and was later also confirmed by WHO and the potential carrier of this
virus were apparentlybats and
COVID-19 has affected International
Relations between countries severely which has caused diplomatic tension due to
trade, transportation of medicine, hospital equipment for COVID-19 etc. While
some leaders have accused other countries of not taking proper measures
leading to the uncontrolled spread of the virus.
Pandemic COVID-19 as declared by WHO
(World Health Organization) has affected 215 countries or territories or
areas so far with death rate crossing 317,529 with no potent medical treatment
or vaccination to control the deadly virus till now which raises a very
possible questions on the International system and its efficiency.
Can the World Health Organization
(WHO) be held negligent in responding to the COVID-19?
China had given prior information about the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation would
have been very different now. WHO investigated the issue as soon as it received
information from the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. During, the
investigation Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert propounded that the
“wholesale market in Wuhan played an important role in an outbreak of the novel
coronavirus but what role it played is still unknown whether it was the
source or supplemented the setting or just a mere coincidence that
some cases were detected in and around the market.”.
11 of IHR (International Health Regulation) puts an obligation on the WHO to
share data with a proper & detailed investigation, so that states can enact
protective measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents. Negligence
of WHO towards China and the rest of the world was questioned by Donald Trump,
the President of the USA in a conference where he called WHO as biased and
China-centric organization and
pummelled its underlying warning requesting the nations to not close its border
with China. He also stated that WHO is largely funded by United States money
and deciding to put a hold on the money spent on W.H.O on
the account of them rejecting Trump’s view of banning the entry of people on
the statement made byWHO “to put a
restriction on the movement of goods and people are ineffective in most cases”
but this has been proven wrong on the account of the virus being highly
contagious and also ignored a lot of information about novel coronavirus.
Accountability of China under
International law with respect to COVID-19
International Health Regulation (IHR), which was adopted in 2005 is an
agreement between 196 countries including all member states of WHO to work
together for global health security. IHR
is a legally binding state obligation towards the world on the spread of
infectious diseases. China is a party to IHR with no reservations making itself
bound by every provision including the following articles.
states the purpose and scope of IHR “prevent, protect against, control
and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in
a way that is commensurate with and restricted to public health risk and which
avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade”The IHR empowers WHO to
act as the central head and put a legal obligation on the state to report
disease to the rest of the world to promote global health. According to Art.6
of the IHR the WHO must be notified within 24 hours of any event that poses risk,
something that could be an international public health emergency with this
China as a party to IHR had a legal obligation to inform WHO about the outbreak.
Art.7 future obligates parties to IHR to share all the data with WHO concerning
the public health crises, China reported its first case on 17th November
2019, while the same was conveyed to the WHO on 31st December 2019.The
thinking behind concealing the fact about coronavirus from WHO might be fear of
getting questioned as Power Block.
Although China did not expeditiously convey the outbreak, it also rejected
offers from WHO and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to
observes the outbreak and help it.
could be done with the feeling of getting exposed to the actual cause of the
virus or with the feeling of pride and superiority as a power block (developed
powerful nation). Moreover, China did not educate the WHO about the infection
among 1700 front-line medical workers.
China having experience with deadly disease i.e. Severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) 2002 the Chinese government took plentiful time to report
COVID-19 which has not only dented China’s image globally but also proved
negligence on its part towards the rest of the world imposing the world to the
global health crisis.
Can a lawsuit be filed against China for its wilful
It is evident from the role of China
in COVID-19 outbreak to justify its negligence towards other nationals and
imposing the world to such a deadly virus with no proper information and
rejection of suitable help given to them to control the outbreak. Art. 75 of
the WHO constitution provides for the court’s jurisdiction for a state to file a suit against China for violation of Art. 21 and 22 of the WHO constitution.
Art. 21 authorizes World Health Assembly to adopt regulations concerning i.e.
IHR, and Art.22 provided “regulations
adopted according to Art.21 came into force for all members after due notice
has been given to their adoption by the World Health Assembly”Considering
the above case, one could argue with the fact that China did not have a
reservation to IHR and is bound by every provision and China’s alleged
violation of IHR concerning Articles 6 & 7.
Importance of a Strong International
questioned the basic fundamental structure and functioning of International law
and called for a strong International system to control and direct the nations
with binding rules and regulations that should be based on equality. The existing International system is flawed, biased, and lacks proper guidance to
promote human welfare. Donald Trump said “WHO ignored important information,
lacked proper investigation, and is biased.”
and well-represented international system not only ensures security to mankind
but also prevents destruction and environmental loss, had there been
International laws during World War I don't you think the situation would have
been avoided? Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, in the conference of
NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) raised concern about the existing
International system deprecated it andurged forinternational
institutions that are more representative of today's world, he also “highlighted the need to promote human
welfare and not focus on economic growth alone.”. He
stressed on the need for a system that maintains equality among nations. With
the development of mankind, there will be economic growth, the relationship
between them is directly proportional to each other. Growth of one leads to the
growth of the other, so why not grow a civilization and then the civilization
will grow its economy according to its needs and in this way, sustainable
development can also be maintained.
The the main limitation of the International System highlighted by COVID-19 is how
fragile it is and also opens questions on how the international system will
deal with future events like this. The starting point of a determined fight
against coronavirus has raised voice against the existing International system
and demands for an International System that is fair, based on equality &
humanity. The fight against coronavirus roots for a recommitment to set up fair
International law and framework which is a more actual representation of
today's world and focuses not only on economic growth but the overall growth of