“in the interest of protecting global health, countries must have a notion of ‘shared sovereignty.’”
In March 2015 the WHO established a panel of outside independent experts to assess all aspects of the WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak. The Report of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel (7 July, 2015) emphasizes that health is “the sovereign responsibility of countries” and that “the means to fulfil this responsibility are increasingly global,” and “require international collective action and effective and efficient governance of the global health system.”
Furthermore, the Panel
“suggests that in the interest of protecting global health, countries must have a notion of ‘shared sovereignty.’ Through the International Health Regulations (2005), Member States recognized that there are limits to national sovereignty when health crises reach across borders.”
The Panel is critical of many states who have not complied with their obligations under the International Health Regulations either because they failed to report the Ebola outbreak or because they instituted travel and trade restrictions to the affected countries.
The Report mentions in this context Article 43 of the International Health Regulations that “requires all countries to behave with appropriate responsibility towards the international community in the adoption of travel and trade restrictions.”
The Report suggests that the member states “have a responsibility to act as global citizens.” As such, they “must take responsibility for outbreaks that take place within their borders and cooperate with neighbouring countries to prevent further spread.”
From the International Health Regulations (2005):
Article 2 Purpose and scope
The purpose and scope of these Regulations are to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.
Article 3 Principles
3. The implementation of these Regulations shall be guided by the goal of their universal application for the protection of all people of the world from the international spread of disease.
4. States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to legislate and to implement legislation in pursuance of their health policies. In doing so they should uphold the purpose of these Regulations.
Article 43 Additional health measures
1. These Regulations shall not preclude States Parties from implementing health measures, in accordance with their relevant national law and obligations under international law, in response to specific public health risks or public health emergencies of international concern, which:
(a) achieve the same or greater level of health protection than WHO recommendations; or
(b) are otherwise prohibited under Article 25, Article 26, paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 28, Article 30, paragraph 1(c) of Article 31 and Article 33,
provided such measures are otherwise consistent with these Regulations.
Such measures shall not be more restrictive of international traffic and not more invasive or intrusive to persons than reasonably available alternatives that would achieve the appropriate level of health protection.