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Pandemics and Law: A Global Governance Perspective

About the Project:

This project deals with the legal mechanisms that were deployed for dealing with the 2009-2010 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, by using a global governance perspective. The approach taken in the research focuses on the way in which legal provisions at the international level, namely those of the International Health Regulations adopted at the World Health Organization, were intertwined with national legal provisions and administrative acts from Mexico.

By retaking the concept of global governance, this research combines legally binding acts with non-binding ones, such as guidelines, informal political agreements and (national) administrative management handbooks. The objective is to visualize how the response to the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic took place through multilevel coordination, which did not necessarily consist of legally binding acts. In this sense, a series of measures adopted to curtail the spread of the virus may have hinged upon human rights. Yet, for the most part, authorities at the international and national levels decided against promoting or mandating the most restrictive ones, such as quarantine and isolation. This was related to how scientific information with regards to the spread of the virus suggested that such measures would be ineffective.

In so far as non-binding acts do not rely on formal validity procedures to be considered as legitimate, the issue thus turns to their scientific basis. To the extent they reflect state-of-the-art knowledge or not, their legitimacy is further enhanced or diminished. Therefore, assessing the legitimacy of pandemic-related measures requires grasping some of the basic virological and epidemiological features of H1N1 Influenza. Given how research on global governance emphasizes how constraining effects can also stem from legally non-binding acts, it also becomes a useful theoretical framework for analyzing measures implemented in Mexico during the 2009-2010 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic.


On November, 2017, the outcome of this research was awarded the Marcos Kaplan Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in law and social sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

PhD Candidate


José María Serna de la Garza