May 13, 2021 - International legal scholars discussed how access to COVID-19 vaccines in Europe and in Latin America remains the top challenge to overcoming the pandemic in a virtual discussion hosted by the University of Houston Law Center's Initiative on Global Law and Policy (GLPA) and the University of Bologna Center for Latin American Studies.
“COVID-19 and Latin America: The Impact on the Inter-American System of Human Rights,” was the fifth event in GLPA’s six-part series, co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law-Latin America Interest Group and the University of Bologna Center for Latin American Studies. The webinar series has been co-organized by GLPA founding director Elizabeth Trujillo, the Law Center's Mary Ann & Lawrence E. Faust Professor of Law, and Sabrina Ragone, a Professor of Comparative Law at the University of Bologna.
"The pandemic and its consequences are human rights issues," said keynote speaker Pablo Saavedra, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights "All responses to the pandemic should be addressed from a human rights perspective within the framework of the rule of law.
"Not only does COVID represent a human rights problem, it is a political problem. For example, the political response in countries like Brazil affects all of the countries in the region. It's the biggest country in Latin America. In regards to access to vaccines, it's a multi-level problem. We should have international solidarity about the release of the patent rights, especially for poor countries.” Assessing data and statistics concerning Latin America, Saavedra showed that this area was especially affected, fostering the intervention of the Inter-American system.
Amaya Úbeda de Torres of the Council of Europe was the discussant, and the talk was moderated by Professor Jorge Contesse of Rutgers University School Law, the co-chair of ASIL-LAIG.
"This is a global challenge," Úbeda de Torres said. "It is testing the limits of human rights protections at the international level. The stage we are in now is a fight for vaccines. In Europe there has been heavy criticism of the handling of the situation." Additionally, Úbeda underlined that the mechanisms available for human rights courts may fall short in such a situation, in which the response of individual states depend on several economic, social, and political factors.
More information on the speaker series, "Constitutionalism, Trade, Social Justice, and Sustainability in the Americas: Lessons from the 2020 Global Pandemic," can be found below: