COVAX, Global Health Governance and the Failure of Multilateralism – Rebecca Brown

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a breakpoint for global health governance, necessitating unprecedented cooperation worldwide. However, the success of global initiatives has been hampered by lack of state interest. This piece investigates why one such initiative, the COVID19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), was abandoned by its high-income state supporters, setting out its vision, development and failings. In doing so, this piece seeks to outline issues within the Global North’s approach to multilateral health governance more broadly.

In July 2020, when the development of an effective vaccine against COVID-19 was in sight, assuring timely access to this vaccine became the essential instrument in the Global North’s political toolbox. The UK secured a ‘portfolio’ of vaccines through privately contracting with a number of pharmaceutical manufacturers, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an agreement with AstraZeneca, before this in fact had been finalised. Now, in May 2021, a 40-year-old may be vaccinated tomorrow, by the end of the year, in some years, or has already been vaccinated – depending on their country of residence. Such disparity in access to vaccines is often attributed to the inadequacy of governmental agreements with private companies. However, this analysis presupposes contemporary knowledge of which vaccines indeed proved effective, and glosses over broader issues of vaccine inequity entrenched by global power differentials and healthcare’s commercialisation. 

To that end, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) appeared a promising solution. Initially floated at the extraordinary G20 meeting in March 2020, and launched by a number of state leaders the following month, COVAX swore to maximise access to vaccines, ensuring populations in all participant countries could soon receive a vaccine. Yet, COVAX remains underfunded, and vaccine nationalism – with states competing to secure doses from manufacturers – stymied its ability to acquire and distribute vaccines. COVAX, set out as a multilateral solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been reduced to a vessel for financial contributions to lower-income states; its failure represents a broader failure of collective action, and a continuation of neo-colonialist attitudes towards health governance.

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Interview with Nicolás M. Perrone: Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination – Part II: More than winning and losing

 In part I of this series, Dr Nicolás Perrone and ILA Reporter Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus discussed the meaning of the legal imagination. This part elaborates on the content of Dr Perrone’s book and how and why the debate around how we talk about international investment law should evolve. 

ST: In your book you discuss the Philip Morris v Uruguay arbitration, which is similar to the claim brought against Australia by Philip Morris via the Australia-Hong Kong BIT. The current Australian government is not concerned about ISDS because Australia ‘won’ this arbitration, and so continues to favour ISDS in its review of its investment agreements. What does the reasoning in these awards tell us (or conceal) about how investment arbitrators conceive of the state’s right to regulate? 

NP: There is a document from the Cologne Society from around 1956 or 1957 that was submitted to the World Bank, that was saying that state regulation is very dangerous, and we should be careful about it. But then when more lawyers got involved, they were more nuanced, saying that of course the state needs to regulate, regulation is totally fine – the American Bar Association was saying that certain regulations are fine, but other regulations go too far. Something that they were very interested in back then was to make it impossible for Global South governments to expropriate when a provision prohibiting nationalisation was included in concession contracts. So they wanted to interpret a contract in a way that could trump states’ right to expropriate, even if that right was part of customary international law and enshrined in the General Assembly Resolution on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources. So it’s not always obvious which regulation is the one that they want to prevent or make more difficult to implement. It depends on corporate needs, existing public policy and, of course, lawyers’ creativity.

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Interview with Nicolás M. Perrone: Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination – Part I: How we imagine international investment law

International investment law has been facing an increasing amount of negative publicity of late. Its detractors maintain that investment treaties constrain state regulatory space, affecting human rights and environmental measures, and exclude local communities from participating in decisions affecting them. On the other hand, proponents of investment treaties claim that they are necessary to facilitate development and that investment arbitration strikes a fair balance between investor rights and the public interest. In his monograph Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination, recently published by Oxford University Press, Dr Nicolás Perrone contributes a historical perspective to this debate. Under the international investment law regime, foreign investors enjoy a privileged position; they have strongly enforceable rights, but no obligations. Perrone shows that the unusual status of foreign investors in international law is no accident, but rather the result of a “world-making project realized by a coalition of business leaders, bankers, and their lawyers in the 1950s and 1960s”. This world-making project, which is still alive and well in the legal imagination of investment lawmakers and practitioners today, maintains the power of corporate actors while silencing and making invisible those who are affected by investment projects.  

Dr Perrone is a Research Associate Professor at Universidad Andrés Bello, Chile, and has previously taught at Durham University and Universidad Externado de Colombia. Dr Perrone has been Visiting Professor at Universidad Nacional de San Martín, the International University College of Turin, and Università del Piemonte Orientale, a faculty member of the Institute for Global Law and Policy (Harvard Law School) and a Visiting Lecturer at Xi’an Jiaotong School of Law. Dr Perrone has also consulted for the OECD and worked as a legal fellow for UNCTAD. 

Dr Perrone joined Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus for a conversation about his monograph and how academics and policymakers should reflect on the legal imagination of investment law as they engage in reform of the international investment law regime. 

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Opportunity Lost: The ECtHR’s Restrictive Approach Re-ignites Vacuum between Human Rights and Humanitarian Law – Alessandro Silvestri

In Georgia v Russia (II), the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’ or ‘Court’) was asked to decide on numerous alleged breaches of human rights by the Russian Federation (‘Russia’) during a five-day armed conflict between Georgia and Russia. Despite the legal trend favouring the complementarity between International Human Rights Law (‘IHRL’) and International Humanitarian Law (‘IHL’), the Court ultimately held that Russia lacked jurisdiction over extraterritorial breaches of human rights under art 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’ or ‘Convention’), signalling a regrettable turnaround from recent case-law.

The ECtHR was handed the perfect opportunity to move past, as rightly underscored by Judge Chanturia, the legally ‘lifeless’ Bankovićdecision and enrich the interplay between IHRL and IHL in Georgia v Russia (II),but ultimately failed to do so. 

For legal purposes, the events under scrutiny may be divided in two parts. The first part concerned the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia, with South Ossetians and Abkhaz forces also playing an important role. Hostilities started on the night of 7 to 8 August 2008 and lasted for about five days, resulting in significant losses, including an alarming number of civilian casualties. Secondly, following a ceasefire, Georgia submitted that Russia perpetrated a number of human rights abuses, including the killings and displacement of civilians, the degrading treatment of civilians and prisoners of war, lootings and destruction of civilian objects, which would constitute significant violations of the ECHR. The scope of this written work is to assess the ECtHR’s approach to the first part and assess whether said approach adequately grasped the interplay between IHRL and IHL, as the latter comprises the body of international law applicable to armed conflicts.

The interplay between IHRL and IHL has been subject to much scrutiny in international law. It is internationally recognised that the two bodies of international law are mutually complementary, thus meaning that the protection of certain human rights, in particular, as the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons argued at § 25, the ‘right not arbitrarily to be deprived of one’s life’, does not cease during armed conflict (see also Orakhelashvili and the ICTY in Prosecutor v Kunarac et al§ 467). On the other hand, the ‘intricate legal issues of interplay that sometimes arise’ have arguably posed practical challenges in the way the interplay is to be understood, such as matters of derogation, jurisdiction, discretion, accountability, etc. (see also Bethlehem, 180– 82). The opportunity Georgia v Russia (II) presented for furthering the interpretation of applicable human rights norms in situations of armed conflict was therefore invaluable.

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Call for Papers: iCourts (University of Copenhagen) Virtual Conference

The iCourts (University of Copenhagen) Virtual Conference will be occurring on 22 April 2021 and 23 April 2021. The Conference, organised by iCourts (the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts), focuses on transforming evidence and proof in international criminal trials. As part of the Conference, a call for papers has been issued.

On 1 July 2022, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will mark the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute, its constitutive treaty. Prior to the Court’s establishment, and through those intervening years, scholars and practitioners have energetically debated the effectiveness of its procedural architecture, its evidential model, and its deliberations on matters of fact. The twentieth anniversary of the Rome Statute’s entry into force thus provides an opportune time to re-engage with these debates, and to take stock of a dynamic field which has undergone significant development. To this end iCourts is hosting a virtual conference, which will serve both to generate dialogue, and to facilitate engagement with innovative theoretical, and empirical work: research which advances the study of evidence and proof, shaping future practice, and laying the foundations for a dynamic research agenda.

iCourts welcomes contributions relating to the core topic of the ICC, and cognate international criminal courts and tribunals, but would also encourage submissions which engage with the overarching topics, as broadly construed. We particularly welcome papers focusing on national jurisdictional approaches to international offences, in addition to theoretical and empirical works whose application reaches beyond the sphere of international criminal adjudication. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, discussions of;

  • Proof and procedure in international criminal courts.
  • Open Source investigations and expert scientific evidence
  • Bayesian and Wigmorean inference networks
  • Evidential reasoning in epistemological and ontological perspective
  • Eyewitness testimony, narrative and memory
  • Innovative jurisdictional approaches to international crimes

We further welcome contributions from researchers, academics, and practitioners across the fields of law, the forensic sciences, political science, psychology, data science, and allied disciplines. Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged. Interested authors should send an abstract (300 words), and a brief author biography (150 words) to by 29 March 2021. Authors will be notified of the status of their submission by 5 April 2021.

The organisers encourage contributors to submit their papers to a special issue of the International Criminal Law Review. Completed papers will be due by 14 June 2021, and will undergo blind peer review. Submissions must be original and should not have been previously published elsewhere. More details on the submission process will be provided following acceptance of proposals. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact the organisers.

Further details are available in the call for papers.

Post-mortem on the ICC’s Prosecutorial Election: Lessons Learned and Questions for the Future – Natalie Hodgson

On 12 February 2021, Karim Khan QC was elected as the third Prosecutor of the ICC. This piece revisits the long process to that election, focusing on two key issues: the role of the Committee for the Election of the Prosecutor and the need for consensus. The election brought to the fore multiple important issues for states, civil society, academics, lawyers and the Court to consider. Now that the election is over, it is important to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons learned for the future. 

On 12 February 2021, Karim Khan QC, a barrister from the United Kingdom, was elected as the third Prosecutor of the ICC. The election process was long and fraught. This election was the first time that states parties did not elect the Prosecutor by consensus; four men were nominated to contest the final ballot. Only one of those nominees, Fergal Gaynor, was among the shortlisted candidates identified by the Committee for the Election of the Prosecutor (CEP). The other three nominees were drawn from the CEP’s longlist – Carlos Castresana Fernández, Francesco Lo Voi and Khan. 

The way the election ultimately unfolded was far from what was envisaged when the process to elect a new Prosecutor commenced in 2019. This piece focuses on two key issues that emerged during the election – the role of the CEP and the need for consensus. (Other issues that arose, such as the need for improved vetting of candidates and female underrepresentation among candidates, have been discussed elsewhere.) In reflecting on these issues, this piece hopes to identify some lessons and questions for future prosecutorial elections.

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Call for Submissions: Brennan and Nygh Prizes

The ILA (Australia Branch) is calling for submissions for the Brennan Essay Prize in Public International Law and the Nygh Essay Prize in Private International Law.

The prizes are awarded for essays that demonstrate outstanding scholarship and make a distinct contribution to the field of public international law and private international law (conflict of laws), respectively. Submissions must be sent to by no later than 1 July 2021.

More details are available on the leaflet below.

A Review of the Malabo Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights – Part II: Corporate Complicity in International Crimes – Jessie Chella

This is the second article in a two-part series examining the Malabo Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR). When it comes into effect, the Malabo Protocol will empower the ACJHR to exercise jurisdiction over international crimes as well as introduce a regulatory scheme for corporate criminal liability. The first part of this series outlined the scope of the Court’s new jurisdiction with respect to international and transboundary offences. This second part explores the new corporate criminal liability provisions in more detail.

Traditionally, only natural persons could be prosecuted for the commission of international crimes in either domestic or international jurisdictions. Corporate criminal liability has been recognised in most domestic jurisdictions, but not under international criminal law. The ACJHR is set to change this with the introduction of Malabo Protocol provisions regarding the international criminal jurisdiction of the court (Article 28A), and a regulatory scheme for corporate criminal liability (Article 46C).

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Emerging human rights norms on climate change displacement – Annika Reynolds

This article analyses emerging international human rights law jurisprudence on climate change displacement and the right to life, notably Ioane Teitiota v New Zealand. This case is the first time the Human Rights Committee has recognised climate change is a threat to the right to life, and thus that states may have non-refoulement obligations to ensure ‘climate change refugees’ are not returned to dangerous environmental conditions. This article will first critically analyse Ioane Teitiota v New Zealand, before discussing how these emerging human rights norms on climate change displacement are expanding state obligations to address climate change.

The South Pacific is at the forefront of climate change, often portrayed as a region drowning in rising seas. The IPCC reports that the mean sea level of the tropical South Pacific is rising faster than the global average, increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, salination of fresh water sources, and predictions of territory loss in the coming decades. These changes heighten food and water insecurity, contribute to higher disaster-related fatalities and damage, and increase migration and the risk of inter-communal violence.This emerging reality has been labelled by the Human Rights Council as a ‘pressing’ human rights threat, notably to the right to life with dignity. Indeed, in Ioane Teitiota v New Zealand, the Human Rights Committee accepted that climate change was a threat to life that would make countries like Kiribati ‘uninhabitable’ in the coming decades. But human rights – deemed inalienable and fundamental – exist in tension with another pillar of international law – state sovereignty.

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Climate change and international investment law – a dangerous mix? – Stephanie Triefus

International investment agreements are coming under increasing fire for the threat that they pose to the global phasing out of fossil fuel energy sources. Foreign investors can challenge state measures addressing climate change via investor-state dispute settlement, which can lead to huge compensation awards that may deter states from taking such action. This piece discusses how investment law can be problematic in regard to climate change measures and calls for states to acknowledge this threat as they move forward with reforms to the international investment law regime.

Recently, it was announced that German energy company RWE is suing the Netherlands for €1.4 billion in response to the country’s decision to phase out coal energy. The case was brought via the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a 1994 multilateral treaty for energy industry cooperation across borders. ISDS is a dispute settlement mechanism through which foreign investors can bring claims directly against host states if investors consider that they have been treated unfairly. The ECT has come under fire in recent years for being a threat to state efforts to switch to renewable energies, because it enables fossil fuel companies to sue states that make regulatory changes aimed at reducing carbon emissions. It has been reported that suits under the ECT could cost taxpayers up to €1.3 trillion by 2050 and protect up to 216 Gt of carbon, which exceeds one-third of the global carbon budget that can be emitted if we are to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees by 2100.

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