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Anno LV, n. 228, maggio-agosto 2020
It has been almost one year that international leaders and communities have struggled with the most treacherous enemy. Started as a local outbreak and rapidly escalated to a global health challenge, the pandemic has eventually transformed into a political tragedy. Because viruses know no borders and states are only as safe as the more fragile in the system are, the problem posed by deadly infectious diseases is typically considered more favorable to international regimes’ formation and effectiveness than other issues. Against the odds, during the last few months, the world has witnessed divided reactions, nationalism, and protectionist tendencies; the parachute of international cooperation has yet to spread its wings. Much of the criticism has been directed toward the World Health Organization as the “orchestrator” of the international regime aimed at responding to pandemic outbreaks. In order to make sense of this pattern, the present essay starts by challenging the assumption according to which Global Health and epidemics control are “benign” issue-areas of confrontation, especially after the securitization process that has involved specific infective diseases since the end of the ‘90s. It continues by exploring the primary legal tool that the regime can deploy against epidemics, namely the International Health Regulations, and asks whether its structure and design fit the (expanded) scope it acquired after 2005. Ultimately the article examines the major concerns raised against WHO’s decisions and the narratives of the ongoing de-legitimation process. Preliminary results point toward a complex array of reasons, which altogether contribute to a better understanding of the Organization’s mishandling of the crisis and explain its performance’s dismal picture. Among those, however, a significant lack of international political awareness seems to be the most troublesome.