With the human tragedy of the Coronavirus unfolding around the world, compounded by the opportunistic response of some authoritarian leaders, it can be hard to conjure up optimism about the state the world will be in when the invisible enemy has been defeated.
So this week at the Bingham Centre we convened a webinar on The Global Coronavirus Emergency and the Rule of Law in which we sought to focus, not on the many challenges which the emergency undoubtedly throws up for the Rule of Law, but on whether the current unprecedented global emergency creates opportunities for advancing it. A recording of the webinar is available here . The substance of the discussion begins at 13:20.
The current emergency is perhaps the closest the world has come to the imaginary scenario in HG Wells's The War of the Worlds, in which humanity is united against a common enemy. It is an emergency unlike any other that we have lived through. International co-operation is clearly required to beat it. Governments need people's trust in order for their emergency responses to be effective. The restrictions on people's liberty that are necessary are not practically enforceable on the scale required, but need the confidence of the public if they are to comply. In many countries Governments acknowledge that this means they need to reassure the public about their own accountability for the exercise of the extraordinary powers which are needed to combat the spread of the virus.
The particular features of this emergency arguably create unusual opportunities to advance the Rule of Law: to rediscover the importance of multilateral institutions; to articulate better the relevant international standards which apply to public health emergencies, and to strengthen those standards where they are found to be weak.
In short, for those who prefer to find silver linings in catastrophes, this could be a moment for practical utopians who see these opportunities to join together in a global and genuinely collaborative international Rule of Law community, to renew their shared purpose and to find imaginative new ways of achieving it.
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