International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Fall 2014 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways

Increasing worldwide access to life saving vaccines by engaging in research on diseases that predominantly affect developing countries, via the UN Development Programme, created in 1966 when the General Assembly approved the merger of the Technical Assistance Board and the UN Special Fund (Resolution 2029 (XXI) (and by the activities of the World Health Organization (WHO)).


By: James G. Apple, President of the International Judicial Academy and Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

The rise of infections from the Ebola virus in three west African countries in the summer of 2014 and the subsequent increased consciousness of the dangers of this deadly virus, especially when cases of Ebola infection appeared outside Africa, in Spain and the United States as a result of international travel of infected persons, has focused attention on the need for a vaccine and the intervention of national and international health organizations. Much attention has been paid to the efforts of the Center for Disease Control in the United States in isolating those who have arrived in the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. There have been 13,241 reported cases in the three countries as of November 7, 1014.

The issue of Ebola as a major threatening virus for humans had been raised to a limited degree in the early 1990s when Richard Preston’s book The Hot Zone appeared in bookstores and libraries in the U.S.. That book, which reached New York Times best seller status in 1993, outline the particular nature of the virus and the characteristics of the disease that it causes, and how it impacted health organizations in the U.S. and other countries.

The virus, at that time, had not reached the status of a probable cause of widespread international infection and subsequent pandemic. The reason was that, as Preston’s book observed, the virus was spread only when a person came into contact with bodily secretions of an infected person. The occasional flare-ups of the disease in West African countries probably originated from contact of natives with monkeys or other animals who carried the virus without any display of symptoms.  Moreover  the virus was thought to be incapable of causing widespread infection because the attack of the virus on an infected person resulted in the rapid onset of symptoms followed by a quick death, giving the virus little time to spread to others.

Occasional flare ups quickly died out. The killing rate for Ebola victims back then was approximately 90%. Apparently the virus in the 20-year period since then has mutated in such a way that its human host does not display symptoms of the infection until after a three week incubation period. As of this writing it appears that the Ebola virus has run its course and may disappear. It also appears that the virus has lost some of its vicious killing capacity, as there have been a number of survivors, especially those who have been treated early for possible exposure to it.



Thus the current Ebola spread has not yet reached pandemic proportions, and probably will not in the foreseeable future. But its outbreak this time will undoubtedly serve as a warning signal to all nations of the need for preparedness. This signal has already been acknowledged by public health officials in some countries, and by international health organizations

The very brief comment in the “100 Ways” booklet referred to above mentions only the UN Development Programme of 1966 resulting from “the merger of the Technical Assistance Board and the UN Special Fund.” That merger deals with assistance for developing countries generally. The resolution does not mention specific programs such as those relating to vaccines. There is a much larger and more focused way that the United Nations provides for vaccine development and other world health activities, and that is through the World Health Organization (WHO). It is through this organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, that international law provides for a method of international response to the Ebola danger and other potential “plagues.”

The World Health Organization, the public health arm of the United Nations, was established on April 7, 1948 when 61 countries signed on to its charter. The first meeting of the World Health Assembly was held on July 24, 1948. The objective of the organization “is the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health.”

The WHO since its creation 66 years ago, has had some significant successes:

Played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox, which was achieved in 1956.

Established an epidemiological information service.

Started a mass tuberculosis inoculation program, which has resulted in a 40% fall in deaths from that disease and saved an estimated seven million lives.

Started a malaria eradication program which is expected to achieve its goal of developing an effective  vaccine in 2015.

Created an International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Through partnerships with another UN Agency (UNICEF), a national health Agency (US Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and a private Foundation (Rotary Foundation of Rotary International) WHO launched with its partners the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has reduced the number of cases of polio worldwide by 99%.

Of particular importance for current major health issues, WHO has designated as priorities for the treatment and conquering of the following communicable diseases: tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and Ebola.

In response to the Ebola outbreak this past summer, the WHO has created an Ebola Response Roadmap. The goal of this document is to “stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within 6-9 months and prevent international spread.” It will “assist governments and partners in the revision and resourcing of country specific operational plans for Ebola response, and the coordination of international support for their full implementation.”

Communicable diseases know no borders. The fight against them requires an international organization to carry out not only its own programs, but also to coordinate efforts by individual countries. This coordinated approach will undoubtedly lead ultimately to the conquering and eradication of the Ebola virus and an end to the health crisis that it has caused. WHO is a very much-needed part of the United Nations structure and should be strongly supported by all countries around the world.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2014 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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