Sep 2nd 2020

What will International Law be Like in a Post-Corona World?

by Abbas Poorhashemi

Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi is the President of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE). He is an International law expert. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Criminal Law and International Environmental Law. He has published many books and articles in each of these areas. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the CIFILE Journal of International Law (CJIL), Canada.

 

Emergence and spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 have created and still creating health issues, economic challenges, political crises and social conflicts around the world. These challenges and conflicts lead the international community to re-evaluate global governance and international structures, which is based on the second world-war and post-cold war. The pandemic will emerge a new era of international society that will not be similar to the pre-Corona world.

Threats to global peace and international security

The coronavirus pandemic could affect global peace and security. The risk of developing conflict between states stands varied in different regions of potential conflict zones, at a regional and global level. Furthermore, the coronavirus might increase the risk of armed conflicts between the major or minor powers such as the United States and China, India and Pakistan, North Korea, and South Korea. In these circumstances, the United Nations possesses a limited authority to manage uncertain global situations.

Multilateralism and international cooperation are essential to maintain peace and security, sustainable development and human rights in this ongoing situation. The commitment to the peaceful settlement of international disputes is the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations. However, the existing world order is changing. Based on this projection, can we predict the pandemic will transform the world into a new global order?

Economic confrontations

The pandemic will also affect the global economic system, both at the level of production, distribution and in the daily economic life of humans. Living and working conditions could experience significant disruptions, and agricultural production could be affected by this disease. It reveals certain deficiencies and weaknesses in the global economic system. The current world economy based on the free market is changing in an uncertain situation that increased competition between states. Confrontation is playing an increasing role in international relations between countries. The multiplication of unilateral protectionist measures and their extension to the field of high technology and new technology, economic sanctions, disagreements on international organizations could be only some examples of economic confrontations.

Increase international pressure for judicial action

Under the immense human and economic loss caused by the pandemic, some individuals and countries are willing to file lawsuits or complaints against China or other countries. In the current state of international law, the Claimant State or individual required to prove negligence, violation, or breach of an international obligation to receive any compensation from the defendant state. According to the fundamental principles of international law, violation of state international obligations or commission of any internationally wrongful act engages its international responsibility. Thus, the claimant states or individuals should prove that China or other countries have violated their international obligations.[ii] In this case, the potential legal action against each other could be additional competition between States. The Charter of the United Nations of 1945 invites States to settle their international disputes by using peaceful means, including arbitration and judicial settlement (Article 33)[iii]. However, the International justice system seems confronted with several limitations and efficiencies.

The inefficiency of international organizations to solve global crises

Dealing with global challenges requires global participation and cooperation. The world after pandemic will raise the interest of the debates regarding the reform of the functioning of international institutions such as the United Nations and, more specifically, the Security Council. The current composition of the Security Council would no longer reflect contemporary international society. The right to veto and the formation of permanent members require providing a solution for the functioning of the council and the maintenance of international peace and security.

Global Health issues

The pandemic proves that health issue has no borders, and international health has become "global health." Based on this fact, countries and international institutions can no longer view health as a border issue, as they often did in the past-pandemic. The rapid development of communication across national borders through travel and trade has facilitated the transmission of diseases from country to country. In this context, can we expect the emergence and development of International Health Law as a new branch of international law?

Also, the widespread of the disease, both in rich and developing countries have shown that the World Health Organization[iv] leadership had failed to manage the growing threat in the world. Some states have declared the ineffectiveness of the WHO explicitly at the time of the global crises.

The emergence of new actors in global governance

The international crisis management regarding the pandemic led to the emergence of new actors in international law, which now plays a more prominent role globally and in multi-actor and multilevel governance in the world. In such a situation, some developing countries are willing to possess more authority and positions in global governance.

In this context, both developed and developing countries should continue to foster multilateral collaboration and cooperation to reduce the risks to peace, security and other health challenges causing by COVID-19.

Importance of environmental protection

The coronavirus and biodiversity protection are linked closely. According to some reliable scientists' reports, the Covid-19 disease started from the Wuhan (China)[v] seafood market, where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. Some of the scientists believed that the new coronaviruses' genetic is almost identical to the one found in bats. Environmental protection, specifically, biodiversity protection, is related directly to the pandemic.

In this context, international society should continue to contribute their efforts to address the ongoing challenges to protect biodiversity, illegal wildlife trade, waste management and climate change.

The roles of new technologies in international law

Social distancing and working remotely are supporting to determine how social media and virtual communications are crucial for humanity. Existing international law based on the traditional approach will transform into a new form of law based on new technologies and virtual life. International organizations are working to develop a new paradigm to create a new workspace for their employees and clients. In this context, new technologies change not only international legal institutions but also international actors' behaviours and communications.

Finally, the global coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused unimaginable devastation and hardship to the international community, has brought our pathway of life to an almost complete halt. The outbreak had and will have profound and lasting economic, political and social consequences in every corner of the globe. International law as a body of law that governs relations between states, international organizations and private persons in a global framework, exposing its vulnerabilities no one aware of their existences, which means international law would not be like before.

International law to maintain its effectiveness must show its capability of adapting new reform based on the democratization of international institutions to empower the decision-making powers, simplify structures and improve transparency.


[i] Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi is the President of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE). He is an International law expert. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Criminal Law and International Environmental Law. He has published many books and articles in each of these areas. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the CIFILE Journal of International Law (CJIL), Canada.

 

[ii] Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi, Can China Be Sued under International Law for COVID-19?, JURIST – Professional Commentary, May 21, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/abbas-poorhashemi-lawsuits-china-covid19/.

[iii] Charter of the United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/charter-united-nations/

[iv] World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/


[i] Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi is the President of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE). He is an International law expert. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Criminal Law and International Environmental Law. He has published many books and articles in each of these areas. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the CIFILE Journal of International Law (CJIL), Canada.

 

[ii] Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi, Can China Be Sued under International Law for COVID-19?, JURIST – Professional Commentary, May 21, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/abbas-poorhashemi-lawsuits-china-covid19/.

[iii] Charter of the United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/charter-united-nations/

[iv] World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/

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