Aligning border control, customs, port entries and more can help the global fight against COVID-19, according to new guidance from the International Bar Association (IBA). The IBA COVID-19 Legal Policy Task Force has released a report detailing the pandemic’s impact in key legal areas and making concrete actionable recommendations to improve pandemic management in the future.
The IBA COVID-19 Task Force examined the impact of the pandemic on international legal systems, recognized the successes and failings of those systems in dealing with the outbreak and made practical recommendations for reforming existing laws or developing new ones to improve the global response to pandemics.
Ahead of the task force’s goal of reaching an international pandemic treaty, the group suggested existing regimes be improved and a multilateral agreement pursued in distinct areas where a global consensus is more likely to be achieved quickly, including:
- Faster scientific reporting of pandemic outbreaks without political interference, enabling the investigation of pandemic causes and enactment of laws averting their recurrence
- Harmonization of border controls, travel, airport entries, customs, import-export rules and transportation, including establishment of an international protocol for advance communication of border closures
- Harmonization of laws regulating therapeutics and vaccines for fast track approval and reciprocal international recognition of national approvals and registrations
- Establishment of a pandemic authority in each country (acting on scientific evidence), regulating the communication between countries, strengthening the transfer of knowledge, isolated from political interference and reviewing the role of the World Health Organization
Furthermore, the IBA COVID-19 Task Force identified key areas implicated by the pandemic; examined the consequences and results of the applicable laws; looked at the implications of the applicable laws for international coordination and collaboration; identified the national laws that worked in response to the pandemic; and shone a light on the laws that impeded the national response to COVID-19.
Recommendations for specific sectors
Specific areas identified, along with a selection of the task force’s key recommendations are listed below:
- Relax individual consent requirements to allow for the implementation of contact tracing
- Store contract tracing data with an independent authority solely accessible by national healthcare authorities for pandemic purposes to limit unlawful use and dissemination of data
Employment and Industrial Relations:
- Establish international principles for mandatory testing and vaccinations provided vaccines have been made globally available
- Define the legal status for the international remote worker and adopt global minimum social security safeguards
International Commerce and Distribution:
- Apply the general principle of good faith to resolve pandemic related disputes and, consistent with good faith obligations, parties should be required to enter into contract renegotiations to mitigate adverse pandemic consequences
- Adopt, for specific trade sectors, force majeure clauses and procedures expressly addressing COVID-19
- Implement data anonymization and the minimization of the use of personally identifiable data to prevent pandemic containment being impeded by data disclosure consent requirements
- Establish strong international principles to protect cyber security, digital space, digital privacy and storage of sensitive information
- Ensure globally coordinated anticorruption detection and enforcement efforts are put in place for both governments and the private sector to ensure proper procurement and supply of pandemic essentials
The Task Force is mindful that its recommendations are designed to be implemented in the industrially developed world by countries in possession of a sophisticated legal framework. Such recommendations may not be suitable for the infrastructure in industrially developing countries. The Task Force will consider the possibility of completing a second phase of its research comprising the views and expertise of legal practitioners from the latter.