COVID-19 I: Promise and Challenges for Global Governance during the Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic urgently calls for a coordinated global response, but has instead spawned divergent and inward-looking national strategies in managing the global health crisis. Unlike the G7, G20 and Security Council, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has sought to forge an international response. After first reporting the initial cluster in Wuhan, scientists in China swiftly isolated the virus and later shared its genetic sequence to develop diagnostic kits. WHO has since gone on to distribute millions of test kits, share medical research, supply personal protective equipment, educate the public through online courses, and circulate situation reports on the global spread of the virus. WHO’s efforts, however, have been sidelined by criticism of its perceived slowness to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, deference to China and unwitting dissemination of Chinese misinformation regarding the risk COVID-19 posed. And now, rising US-China tensions have led to the dramatic announcement that the US will withdraw from WHO. There is also uncertainty whether withdrawing WHO membership would also mean leaving the major WHO treaty governing global health, the International Health Regulations. This panel will consider WHO’s role in the pandemic including with respect to the development of any COVID-19 vaccine, and the challenges confronting its mission in the face of fierce political headwinds.

There will be a separate and subsequent "COVID-19 II panel" but on the topic of the pandemic's effects on vulnerable and marginalized populations.


  • Gian Luca Burci, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva (speaker)
  • Beth Cameron, Nuclear Threat Initiative (speaker)
  • Lawrence O. Gostin, Georgetown University Law Center (moderator)
  • Sharifah Sekalala, School of Law, University of Warwick (speaker)

Date and Location

Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm