Publication details

Pandemic Declarations of the World Health Organization as an Exercise of International Public Authority: The Possible Legal Answers to Frictions Between Legitimacies, Gottingen Journal of International Law, vol. 7, no. 1

Author(s): Villarreal, Pedro
Year of publication: 2016

Abstract: The institutional decisions regarding the 2009–2010 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic displayed how the World Health Organization’s (WHO) role as the international organization in charge of coordinating the pandemic response amounts to an exercise of authority. Notably, the 11 June, 2009 Pandemic Declaration was grounded in the WHO’s guidelines that do not have a binding nature according to international law. However, this is not an obstacle for considering them as an act of authority, since their effects can constrain the decision-making of States. If these non-binding acts have an authoritative nature, then it is necessary to address various legitimacy issues that may be present. This is where the concept of international public authority (IPA) can prove useful, since it enables to combine the non-binding nature of Pandemic Declarations and the respective guidelines with broad legally-oriented figures such as transparency and accountability. The controversies surrounding the 2009 Pandemic Declaration illustrate how the strictly technical-scientific elements that led to such a decision were not necessarily harmonious with other aspects more related to political decision making in general, such as transparency and accountability. This can be considered as an example of how so-called ‘technocratic legitimacy’ sometimes generates friction with lato sensu ‘political legitimacy’. As the 2009–2010 pandemic period unraveled, it became clear that expertise-based legitimacy is not sufficient in itself to consider the act as generally legitimate. On the contrary, the strongest criticisms directed at the decision-making process of the WHO during this event were leveled against deficits of transparency and accountability. This article purports to discuss the issue of how both types of legitimacies, technical-scientific and political, are necessary components for deeming Pandemic Declarations as legitimate enough, since they amount to an exercise of international public authority.

Keywords: International Public Authority, Pandemic Declarations, World Health Organization

Research area: Research Area 3: The Plurality of Normative Orders: Competition, Overlapping, Interconnection
Research project: The Exercise of Public Authority on the International, Supranational, and Domestic Levels: Reconstructing Public Law to Face the Challenges of Multilevel Governance
Subject(s): law

Full text:

Back to publications list


Rainer Forst zu Corresponding Fellow der British Academy gewählt

Wie die British Academy am 24. Juli bekannt gab, wurde Prof. Rainer Forst als Corresponding Fellow aufgenommen. Jährlich wählt die British Academy herausragende Gelehrte und Wissenschaftler*innen, die sich auf dem Gebiet der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften international verdient gemacht haben zu Corresponding Fellows. Mehr...

Bundesministerin Karliczek gibt Startschuss für das neue Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt

In einer Pressekonferenz hat Bundesministerin Anja Karliczek am 28. Mai 2020 den Startschuss für das neue Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt (FGZ) gegeben. Mit dabei waren Sprecherin Prof. Nicole Deitelhoff (Goethe-Uni, Normative Orders), sowie der Geschäftsführende Sprecher Prof. Matthias Middell (Uni Leipzig) und Sprecher Prof. Olaf Groh-Samberg (Uni Bremen). Nun kann auch das Frankfurter Teilinstitut seine Arbeit aufnehmen. Mehr...

Upcoming Events

15. Oktober 2020, 12 Uhr

Frankfurter Kolloquium für Internetforschung X: Eliška Pírková (Access Now, Brüssel): An Insider’s Guide to Safeguarding Human Rights in EU Digital Policy. Mehr...

17. November 2020, 19.30 Uhr

DenkArt „Der normalisierte Ausnahmezustand“: Prof. Jutta Allmendinger Ph.D. (Präsidentin des Wissenschaftszentrums Berlin für Sozialforschung): „Teilhabe oder Rückschritt?“ – Die Position der Frau in Zeiten von Corona. Mehr....


Latest Media

„Autoritäre Bedrohungen oder liberale Demokratie?“ – Die offene Gesellschaft im Ausnahmezustand

Prof. Wilhelm Heitmeyer
DenkArt „Der normalisierte Ausnahmezustand“

Normative Orders Insights

... with Jakob Huber

New full-text Publications

Darrel Moellendorf (2020):

Hope and reasons. Normative Orders Working Paper 02/2020. More...

Kettemann, Matthias (2020):

The Normative Order of the Internet. Normative Orders Working Paper 01/2020. More...