Preventing pandemics: the vital role of the law. Strengthening countries’ legal preparedness for public health emergencies
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Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, United States
Resolve to Save Lives, Nigeria
International Development Law Organization, Italy
Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) - Legal Preparedness Action Package (LPAP), O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, USA, United States
Resolve to Save Lives, United States
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A547
While the world is watching WHO Member States revising the global health security architecture in Geneva, research shows that one of the main bottlenecks to the COVID-19 response was the lack of public health emergency (PHE) preparedness at country level (Source: Report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, 2021). COVID-19 has dramatically illustrated the gaps and weaknesses of national legislation and systems in effectively preventing and responding to the pandemic. The law has a vital role to play in strengthening countries’ preparedness and in advancing global health security. Effective national legal and policy frameworks that comply with international norms and standards are key components of a comprehensive system that enables countries to promptly and efficiently prevent and manage public health threats. Legal barriers, however, can hinder countries’ capacity to respond rapidly and effectively to an emergency, including by hampering effective and equal access to protective measures and medical countermeasures, delaying decision making processes, and undermining the legitimacy of response measures. PHE Legal Preparedness is a core competency that enables a country to effectively use the law to plan for and implement strategies to prepare for, prevent and respond to PHEs. Despite this, Legal Preparedness has not received much attention as a critical capacity for PHE preparedness and many countries still lack local capacities that can support governments in strengthening and mobilizing their legal frameworks in line with international guidance.

This workshop will raise participants’ awareness about the concept of Legal Preparedness and discuss the role of the law in advancing PHE preparedness and response. It will discuss the importance of Legal Preparedness as a critical capacity for PHE prevention and preparedness. The workshop will be delivered as a dialogue among panelists, and will be aimed at non-legal public health practitioners. It will provide an overview of the concept of Legal Preparedness and its role in PHE prevention and response, discuss the need for capacity building on legal preparedness and present experience and best practices from LMICs. By facilitating a dialogue between national and international experts, it will present lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and other past emergencies to identify gaps, needs and opportunities to strengthen countries’ capacities to enhance PHE legal preparedness.

Key Questions:
The workshop will address the following key questions: What is legal preparedness for PHEs?What legal challenges and barriers have been recognized during the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies?How can the law enhance countries’ preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to PHEs?What is the process by which countries can assess and improve their legal preparedness? What capacities are needed, and which tools are available, to enhance legal preparedness at country level?

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