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International Law

Reimagining the contours of “Common Heritage of Mankind” vis-à-vis right to Health

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Authors: Manini Syali and Vinayak Jhamb*

In the recent meeting of G20, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for sharing medical research freely and openly between nation states for the development of mankind. This raises interesting questions with respect to re-assessing the existing contours of the Common Heritage Mankind principle (CHM), commonly applied in the context of natural resources. This become important especially in the present context when the entire mankind, as a single unit, is facing an unprecedented challenge in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth unprecedented challenges before the world community and not even a single nation state has remained out of reach of the damage and adverse impacts it can cause. Moreover, it would not be wrong to equate the magnitude of this contagious spread with the two World Wars which the world had the misfortune to witness.

It is also a well-established fact that due to historical as well as socio-economic reasons not all nation states are at an equal footing when it comes to infrastructural development. This in the present context becomes extremely important and places a burden on the developed states to share the health care resources they possess with the other less resourceful countries. It is pertinent to note that an appeal in this regard was also made by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the recent G20 meeting, for utilizing and sharing medical research freely and equally between nation states for the benefit of the entire mankind.

Countries have started working in this direction and the United States has already announced financial assistance of 174 million USD to 64 countries, for effectively fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of this amount, 2.9 million USD is being offered to the Indian government for preparing laboratories, activating case findings and conducting event-based surveillance.

This call made to the World Community to operate as a unified whole for disease eradication is not new and also gets reflected in the goals and purposes for which the World Health Organization was established. Moreover, the nomenclature used for the organization clearly signifies that the focus was on looking at health as a global agenda which goes beyond artificially constructed sovereign borders. Despite existence of a specialized United Nations agency and acknowledgement of right to health as a primary human right by virtue of Article 12, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, there remains a disparity between the world population when it comes to accessibility of health care facilities.

 Moreover, the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and public health is a good example which can substantiate the above discussed proposition. The Declaration attempted to reconcile the existing conflicts between Trade Law and Right to Health and also responded to the concerns of developing countries about the obstacles they faced when seeking to implement measures to promote access to affordable medicines in the interest of public health in general. This demonstrates that Health Related rights stand in conflict with parallelly operating legal regime, namely, International Trade Law. The focus of the Declaration remained on the following health related aspects of TRIPS: Compulsory Licensing, Parallel Imports and the Transition Period for Least Developed Countries. Despite existence of such an exhaustive legal regime, health care remains far from becoming universally available. The present article, thus, attempts to analyze whether the scope of health related rights need to be expanded beyond the already existing legal frameworks and whether international law doctrine of common heritage of mankind can encompass universal health care and related aspects.

Common Heritage of Mankind and Healthcare

The term “Common Heritage of Mankind” is a comprehensible term which needs to be explored completely. The fundamental premise of this concept entails the principle of equity in the real sense of the term. It states that all the resources available in different geographical set ups have to be adequately allocated amongst the world population with utmost precision and parity. However, the concept has never been followed strictusensu at the international forefront. It is absolutely unimaginable to think that all the nation-states sharing the global resources equitably. But, one of the major lacunas highlighted by the authors is the lack of considering “health resource” as an intrinsic part of Common Heritage of Mankind. The scholars across the globe have turned a blind eye to this issue since time immemorial. They claim that once this first generation human right enters into the domain of “common heritage of mankind”, it would essentially open up a Pandora box as the first generation human rights of “right to life” which has been enshrined in the International Convention on civil and political rights”. The sanctity of the binding nature of the Convention is beyond debate ,thus, formulating right to health as one of the unmoving legal principles at the international forefront is a herculean task.

Concrete and Express Recognition of Right to Health

This does not mean that the international community has been absolutely oblivious of this issue. However, their efforts have only helped in unifying right to health as a directory measure at the international forefront. The lack of concrete steps in this regard still haunts the international legal regime. The authors under this piece are trying to put across a question in front of the world about the need of having a specific regulation reconsidering the right to health as a valuable resource. The domestic legal regimes very well have their set of standard operating procedures vis-à-vis this issue but the vacuum at the international level still persists.There have been times wherein the expanding contours of trade and commerce have sabotaged public health crisis which is akin to a quagmire of innumerable problems which have no definite solutions. Public health is one of those invaluable assets which have to percolate at every level of governance. So, adequate steps need to be taken in this regard and this can only be done with the co-jointed efforts of the international community members and the civil societies operating independent of any governmental control.

Unprecedented Times call for Unprecedented measures

The contemporary crisis which has taken a vice grip of everyone across the globe has opened up our narrow minds. The problem of Corona Virus which has become an intrinsic matter of discussion in every household across the world today is increasing exponentially. This emanated from a small town of China named as Wuhan and spread like a wildfire across the globe is highly uncalled for. The plight of Italy, Spain, USA and Iran cannot be attributed apt words. The entire globe is facing an existential crisis because the governments have always lived in delirium and never abided by the principle of “Prevention is better than cure”. India also is facing the brunt of this virus with more than 1200 positive cases registered by the Indian Council of Medical research in consonance with the Health Ministry of India. So, the problem which perpetuated in China is taking a toll on all of us out there. But, at this juncture, the authors want to pose a question to the world- All those medical equipments and technologies which the countries are intending to import, should they not be readily available without any charges in such times of need? Or will excessive imports by these needful countries not disturb their Balance of Payment fulcrum? These questions might have their roots embedded in the economic realms but have a specific legal tangent attached to them.

But, the authors just intend to highlight the immediate need of having health as a specific resource which can comfortably fall under the domain of “Common Heritage of Mankind”. If the news agencies are to be believed, China has promised to help the other countries in distress, but then a thought pops up about the existence of IPR issues while sharing the requisite vaccine? Or what shall be the opportunity cost which China shall ask for in this process? These questions are popping up time and again in our minds and the authors are absolutely not familiar with any concrete solution other than making public health a resource under the common heritage of mankind.

Conclusion

Though it has been rightly said by Robert Merton that “It is good to ask questions but it is always better to find solutions to those questions”, but such complex set of questions cannot be answered in one go. They need proper analysis of the problem and then only certain concrete measures could be thought of. The idea behind writing this piece was to ignite the spirit of research in establishing the inter-relationship between the commonly found concept of “common heritage of mankind” and right to health as a resource. It would be highly falsified on our parts if we bombard the readers with a special set of suggestions because the cost-benefit analysis of each of those suggestions is varied and comprehensive. Thus, the authors have left the door ajar so that the readers are able to familiarize with the given set of problems which are staring us and then accordingly ponder about the need of expanding the contours of “Common heritage of mankind”.

*Vinayak Jhamb is a Research Scholar at University School of Law and Legal Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi

Manini Syali is a Research Scholar at University School of Law and Legal Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.

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International Law

Transition of Balance of Power from Unipolar to Multipolar World Order

Fatima Arif

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The international system may be described as a complex system of social, scientific, political, military and technological systems. This dynamic structure is very difficult to evaluate and it is even more difficult to predict its future.

The distribution of power potential in the international system defines the number of major powers and thus the international system’s polarity. The system would be multi-polar if the great powers are more than two; if they are two it would be bipolar and systems with only one great power are called unipolar.

It can be expected in the future multipolar world that the global economy does not settle with a couple of significant nations but rather with multiple nations of varying capabilities. In the limited arena of affairs pertaining to their country, each state with its particular notable qualities will have decisive say. Beyond the US, Japan, China, the EU, and India are capable of economic influence due to their advancements in technology, increasing economy, and large population base. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, African Union countries and Brazil will have an impact, owing to their large energy reserves. Russia should have preferences for both. Because of their geostrategic location such as Pakistan, Central Asia, Ukraine and Turkey, a few nations will have some regional influence because these nations are situated on the energy routes from which energy resources would be on route to other parts of the world.

United States and the Changing World Order

There is a broad bipartisan consensus within US political leadership that the country must remain a global leader / world leading power. This assumption in its re-eminence also comes with the fundamental underpinnings that the United States will lead the world to freedom and liberty. Its third term is resolve to contain China.

It’s troubling to what extent the US continues to pursue China’s containment. The’ democracy alliance’ or the’ pivot to Asia’ are examples of US designs. China too, because of its part, diverted from the usual cautious approach and its proclaimed strategy of’ peaceful progression’ to an unambiguous stance on the South China Sea. Right now, however, the condition does not appear to come to a head-on collision anytime far. Yet the contest could bring a serious and dangerous situation to the fore. The US is not going to communicate directly with its forces on the field. There is a lot of resistance for another war at home. This doesn’t mean the US is ineffective. What we have is a hegemon with a diminishing power and a reluctance to give up his position of leadership. At the other hand, there is no other country capable of replacing it while they frequently seek to question its authority. Chinese occasional deviation from caution, and reluctance on the part of the US to yield, build a dangerous situation.

Decline of the Unipolar System

The U.S. has been the only hegemony since the end of the Cold War, but since the economic crisis of 2008 its world hegemony has been undermined. The gap in power between China and the US is diminishing. In 2011, China’s GDP contributed for around half of the US GDP. If China’s GDP continues to rise at 8.5 per cent and US GDP increases at less than 3.8 per cent, the current gap between the two forces will level out in the decade to come. Meanwhile, the economic gap between these two nations and the other major powers will continue to expand over the next ten years. In the next five years, only the US and China will spend more than $100 billion annually on defense, growing the difference in power between them and the others. Accordingly, the international structure would not be unipolar.

International Players That Can Change the International World Order In 21st Century (Analytical Approach)

Bipolar global structure collapsed by the end of the Cold War. The United States has become the sole superpower and as expressed in the new industrial order of defense, the international structure has become unipolar. The major powers of the global community are China, Russia, Japan and the E.U. Whether the international system can turn into a bipolar or multipolar system depends on developments in many countries and regions in technological, political, economic, and military terms. China, Russia, Japan, the EU and India have the power to change their international structure. In the last twenty-five years, China’s capacities have steadily increased in magnitudes that significantly restructure the international order. Economic prosperity for China goes hand in hand with the advancement of science and technology. It is developing expensive weapons systems that are increasingly capable compared to developed countries ‘ most advanced weapons systems. Another important determinant of the future of the international community is the relative dominance of the U.S. in science, technical, economic and military capacities compared to other major powers.

Conclusion

The position of emerging states, which influence the range and change of the international system, is very difficult to comprehend. The general outlines of what is happening with this phenomenon are becoming more evident, as transition happens under intense internal dynamic conditions and not from external factors. There is a group of candidates that can be considered growing powers, and there are rapid bursts in this phase of transition, but it is longer than expected. Under conditions of changing institutionalization a central component of these changes occurs. Yet there is also a gap in the assumptions regarding the principles of collaboration and conflict. National interests and principles are certainly the most significant in the changing world order, and these can also lead to deeply complex and frustrated bargaining situations that need to be resolved by enhanced collaboration at the state level. Joined societies dissolve, along with the old beliefs. According to different ideas of world system, that countries are not less divided, and they can constantly struggle and communicate with each other at the same time. Therefore, the future multi-polar system would be no different from the other multi-polar moments that history has seen, resulting in more chaos and unpredictability than in the current unipolar world. Nevertheless, multi-polarity does not only carry the risks involved in researching balance of power among great powers for the first time in history.

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International Law

The UN reforms are required to make it functional

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Today, the world we live in has become more unpredictable, insecure, and exposed to more vulnerability. Geopolitics is changing rapidly, new problems are often emerging, while old issues remained unresolved. Humankind is under threats and challenges; some of them might be natural disasters, like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Valconos, Pandemic, etc. But most of the difficulties and problems are man-made, creation of some powerful countries, the result of over-ambitions, greed, expansionism, biases and jealousy. Big and more muscular countries are keeping eyes on the natural resources of small and weaker nations, etc.

In 1945, the United Nations was established to replace the League of Nations. Because the League of Nations was unable to solve most of the problems faced by the world, unable to resolve conflicts and wars, unable to protect human lives, unable to maintain justice and equality, the failure of achieving objects, the League of Nations was dissolved, and UN was established.

The UN was established with the following four objectives:

Maintaining worldwide peace and security

Developing relations among nations

Fostering cooperation between nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian international problems

Providing a forum for bringing countries together to meet the UN’s purposes and goals

UN Charter was written by very professionals and experts in their own fields. The Charter is comprehensive and based on many considerations, satisfying almost the needs of nearly everyone at that time. Considering the disaster of the Second World war, the Charter was considered a most appropriate document to address practically all concerns.

The UN has been functioning since 1945 and ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary soon. At this moment, if we look at the performance of the UN, there are many things one can mention as achievements or in the UN’s credit. No doubt, in the early days of the Establishment of the UN, the objectives achieved were rated quite well. However, over time, the UN was politicized, and some of the countries, who were a major donor to UN contribution, were using the UN and its structures to achieve their political objectives. They were misusing the UN platform to coerce some other nations or using UN umbrella to achieve political of economic goals by harming other nations. On the other hand, geopolitics became so complicated and complex that the existing structure of the UN is unable to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Just, for example, Afghan is under war for the last four decades, people are being killed in routine matters, foreign intervention caused the loss of precious lives and economic disaster to people of Afghanistan. Iraq war, Libya War, Syria war, Yemen War, the situation in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Ukraine, somewhat more complicated conflict among the U.S., Iran, Israel, and the Persian Gulf, U.S.-North Korea tussle, and Kashmir, all are remained unresolved under the current structure of the UN.

Should we remain silent spectators and keep the status quo, and let the humankind suffer more? Should we justify ourselves as helpless and let the more powerful kills more human beings? Should we remain in isolation and keep our self busy with our own interests? Should we compromise with our conscious? Should we ignore our inner voice? Should we prove ourselves as innocent and not responsible such crimes committed by someone else?

Think and thing smartly, and consider yourself in the same situation and a victim, what we should be expecting from other nations, the international community, and the UN. We must do the same thing to meet the expectations of the victims.

The UN is unable to achieve its objectives with the current structure; the reforms are inevitable. We must strengthen the UN and transform the current dysfunctional UN to a more effective UN, which should satisfy the core issues of all nations. Africa is a major continent, and facing many challenges, but have no say in the UN; there is no single country from Africa in the Security Council of the UN as a permanent member having veto power. The Muslim world, having an estimated population of two billion, every fourth person in this world is a Muslim, there are 57 independent sovereign countries as member f the UN,m but no voice in the UN, no permanent member of UNSC, no veto power, who will protect their rights and who will look after their interests. Should they remain at the mercy of the current five permanent members of the UNSC?

Some countries are rebellious to the UN; some states are defaulter of the UN, and not implementing the resolutions passed by UNSC. Some countries have bypassed the UN and imposed war or sanctions on other nations. They must be held responsible for their acts, the UN should kick such countries out of the UN, and their membership may be suspended or cancelled.

It is time to introduce, comprehensive reforms in the UN, to address all issues faced by today’s modern, complex and rather complicated world. An appropriate representation of all nations, groups, ethnicity or religion should be ensured. The UN has a heavy responsibility, deserve more budgets, more powers and needed to be strengthened further.

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International Law

Coronavirus Shaping The Contours Of The Modern World

Nageen Ashraf

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Globalization vs. Protectionism:

Globalization means the movement of ideas, products, technology, and people across borders and different cultures. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. It has social, cultural, economic, political and legal aspects. Globalization has made the world a global village and talks about co-operation and interdependence. Protectionism, on the other hand, is the restriction of movement of goods and products across borders to protect the national industries and economy. The major goal of protectionism is to boost up national economy, but protectionist measures can also be applied for security purposes. So, we can say that protectionists are basically anti-globalists and prefer domestic strength as compared to foreign co-operation.

Protectionism and Covid-19

Globalization has made the world so interdependent and interconnected that any economic or political change in one state creates a domino effect and influence many other states. For the pandemic, most states were initially blaming China, but as it slowly healed and the pandemic caused more devastating impacts in the western states, more fingers are pointing towards globalization. Multiple narratives are building regarding globalization where protectionists finally got a chance to prove how right they were all along.

Globalization not only played a vital role in the spread of this epidemic, it also made the economic crisis go global by affecting the supply chains. An epidemic that affected a single city in Dec, 2019, grew to become a pandemic affecting almost every state in the world through movement of people and goods. States that adopted strict measures and restricted the movement of people, have relatively less cases of corona virus as compared to other states. The worst impacts of corona virus so far can be seen in USA where New York City was initially the epicenter.

New York City is definitely one of the most crowded cities in the world where daily, thousands of people move in and out for various purposes. This could be one of the reasons of such devastating impacts of corona in NYC because the free circulation of people and goods allowed the virus to spread exponentially. On the other hand, if we talk about African continent, where most states are under developed, and the movement of people in and out of the continent is very less as compared to Europe and Americas, reported cases of corona virus are very low. As of Sep 11, 2020, in the whole continent, the highest number of corona cases is in South Africa, with a count of642k as compared to USA’s count of 6.49m. This provides evidence that movement of people played a vital role in the spread of this virus and movement of people has increased a lot since the rise of globalization.

Critiques of globalization also argue that globalization is to be blamed for an epidemic that spread across borders and will soon plunge the whole world into recession. Interdependence because of globalization has made the world more vulnerable to such situations. For instance, China is one of the biggest markets in the world that exports antibiotics and telecommunications and remains an important part of most of the global supply chains. Half of the world’s surgical masks were made by China, even before pandemic. So, when the pandemic struck Wuhan, China, the supplies from China to the rest of the world affected many states that were dependent on China, and they ran out of important pharmaceutical inputs. Even the developed states like France ran out of medical masks and had to suffer because of lack of important medical equipment. This reveals the cost of such deeply interconnected global supply chains that create a domino effect.

Is Globalization ending?

Globalization has made the world a global village and undoubtedly facilitated the free movement of people, goods, ideas, cultures, information, and technology across borders. But on the other hand, it has also played a major role in the spread of diseases and has made states vulnerable to unexpected shocks. Globalists also believe that the medical or health consequences of corona would prove less destructive if states work together instead of working separately for the vaccine, as a competition. Adopting the nationalist or isolationist approach during the pandemic would crash the international economy and further increase the tensions. As the protectionists suggest, if we’d continue to protect only our national economies and keep on putting barriers on international trade, the national recession would soon turn into a global depression, as happened in 1930’s.Timely economic recovery is only possible through global cooperation.

 I think that the threat of Covid-19 has created an extraordinary situation. Originating from Asia, and then causing millions of deaths all around the globe, the blame on globalization is legitimate. Most of the states in the world rely on their tourism revenue that has been affected badly due to corona virus. For instance, Saudi Authorities decided to cancel Hajj because of growing pandemic, and the impact on KSA’s economy would be dramatic. Similarly, Japan is one of the states that depend highly on tourism revenue from Chinese tourists and travel restrictions have caused severe losses. We have also seen how the supply chains are affected just because one of the major producers (China) was badly hit by the virus. Globalization seems to have conquered the world so there is no way that it can be avoided completely. However, after the pandemic, there might be a little change in the world order regarding high interdependency. States that were mostly dependent on China for their important supplies might try to produce the supplies on their own and prioritize their domestic industries over foreign industries because of the consequences they had to bear during the pandemic. Similarly, travel bans will surely be removed but people might hesitate to cross borders and move freely because there will be awareness regarding the risks related to free movement. So, I think that the pandemic has highlighted some backlashes in globalization, but it doesn’t mean that globalization has failed. We can say that it is fragile, despite or even because of its benefits.

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