Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

7. International Law

David P Fidler


Conclusion (2)

Obstacles in the path of this recommendation:

  • developing countries weak capabilities in international law
  • capacity in public health law is weak worldwide
  • developing countries weak public health systems
  • commitment to producing GPGH among developed states is shallow

Obstacles stand, however, in the path of this recommendation: (1) developing countries generally exhibit weak capabilities in international law; (2) capacity in national and international public health law is weak worldwide; (3) developing countries generally have weak public health systems. This provides difficult ground on which to try to improve the use of law in any form to produce public goods for health.

A strategy to improve the supply of GPGH that concentrates only on international law will rely too heavily on the "instrumental part" of international relations, while ignoring the more fundamental problem that the protection of human health globally may not in fact be an "obligation written in the hearts" of developed and developing states in the international system.

The undersupply of GPGH can only be remedied when the national and international commitment of states to the interdependence of individual and population health in the global era becomes less superficial. The disappointing level of financial commitments made to date by developed countries to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis ($1.5 billion committed by G8 countries against an estimated need of $7 to $10 billion annually just to fight HIV/AIDS indicates that commitment to producing GPGH among developed states remains shallow.

International law can prove useful in challenging states to re-conceptualize their approaches to global public health problems. But international law is, at the end of the day, merely a tool whose use and effectiveness is controlled and determined by the values and creativity of those sculpting the political, economic, and social fate of the human race.

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