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The impact of COVID-19 on International Law

By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, attorney, humanitarian and law professor.

Throughout time there have been different historical events that have defined the international community, firstly, it arises after the need of the different nations cooperate with each other in different areas, the branch of international law is primarily responsible for regulating the relations between countries, and from the private sector the relations of individuals of different nationalities.

So, it is the task of international law to assess the current situation and through the different international bodies to issue actions that will help address the situation that we are experiencing worldwide. There are organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) that are in charge of monitoring, counting and analyzing the situation, conducting a global study, being in contact with the different nations and proposing recommendations for lines of action for the countries to follow, but it is the personal decision of each country to follow the recommendations and act in the direction of the country’s needs.

Although each country has its own sovereignty and decides its ways of acting, in a pandemic scenario things change because COVID-19 does recognize borders, it does not limit itself to respect nationalities, and internal or external regulations, contagious diseases spread beyond borders, it is for this reason necessary to control and above all proper communication between nations to create reciprocal and equal lines of action that benefit not only a nation but the entire world.

The reality we are experiencing is that COVID-19 is crossing borders, there is almost no country that does not have at least one case, international law is being tested, the reality is that international law exists to create a cooperation between nations through international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), one of the most important in the universal system, and primarily to ensure peace and peaceful relations between different countries, but is there really cooperation between countries in the face of this crisis? Are countries acting in accordance with the protection of the human right to health?

The reality is different, we are seeing that some countries are not cooperating with the recommendations of international organizations, so the international community is directly impacted since all countries are part of it and if one does not ensure its proper functioning, the good deeds that some carry out will be contrasted with the faults of others, since if some are not working to end or decrease the spread of COVID-19, this will cause cooperation between nations to end, there will be countries that will stop accepting economic or social cooperation with those negligent nations and may even end up closing borders, which is already taking place, or, on the other hand, the pandemic will continue to cross borders worldwide.

In the same way, this pandemic is undoubtedly affecting individuals who have personal, labor, commercial or economic relationships with foreigners, for example, the borders of Baja California and California are closed, the border crossing is being limited, under strict scrutiny, only various activities can be carried out and not all people can cross the border, therefore, there will be losses in different sectors for both countries involved.

It is necessary to indicate that those who have the greatest responsibility at the international level are the governments of each country, but also citizens must have a responsibility in this situation and act responsibly and prudently following preventive measures seeking not their own benefit but for the benefit of all.

Therefore, I can say that we are having a wake-up call. At the international level, after an emergency that affects all nations, the need for better relations between countries is being tested, the international community is being attacked and the need to work in a structure with better functioning and greater international cooperation is arising.

Finally, another issue that would be important to discuss and study is the impact of COVID-19 on criminal law, the question of whether countries can choose to penalize those who do not abide the preventive measures and because of negligent or intentional actions propagated the disease of COVID-19, since there are nations that have sanctions regarding biological elements susceptible to spread, this discussion will be for another time but I leave for your reflection: Do we will have to come to the need to use jurisdictional actions to avoid the spread of COVID-19, and even go to International Courts if any nation is not following the appropriate measures?

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