Pandemics and International Law: The Need to Strengthen International Legal Frameworks after the COVID-19 Global Heal Pandemic [Sierra Leone]

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I would like to begin by acknowledging the American University Washington College of Law and all its partners for organizing this timely symposium on “Pandemics and International Law: The Need for International Action.” 1 The theme of this symposium is rather broad and, as we have heard already, there is much that can be said about it from various international law perspectives. I will not attempt to do that. Instead, I wish to offer brief comments on one question given the time restrictions for my remarks and this panel. I will focus specifically on the topic I was assigned. In essence, given this pandemic of a lifetime that we are experiencing today, the question I was asked to ponder is whether international law needs to be codified or progressively developed to address issues stemming from pandemics. By those key words, of progressive development and codification, I use them in the meaning given to them by the UN General Assembly in Article 15 of the Statute of the International Law Commission. There, “progressive development” is defined, for convenience, as meaning the preparation of draft conventions on subjects which have not yet been regulated by international law or in regard to which the law has not yet been sufficiently developed in the practice of States. The expression “codification of international law” is used for convenience as meaning the more precise formulation and systematization of rules of international law in fields where there already has been extensive State practice, precedent and doctrine. Both mandates are equally important and equally critical for the work of the ILC.