The future of extraterritorial human rights obligations

Gamze Erdem Türkelli, Mark Gibney, Wouter Vandenhole and Markus Krajewski
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Additional info: In: Gamze Erdem Türkelli, Mark Gibney, Wouter Vandenhole and Markus Krajewski (Eds.) (2022). The Routledge Handbook on Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations. Taylor & Francis, pp. 463-467.

As this is being written, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, and some important extraterritorial lessons – some good and some bad – have emerged from this pandemic. The first and perhaps most obvious is that communicable diseases do not respect national borders. What began in Wuhan, China soon spread to every corner of the globe, even as states quickly responded by attempting to close themselves off from the rest of the world. If the pandemic teaches us nothing else, it should teach us that each one of us is potentially far more connected with the rest of humanity than we had ever imagined. There is, however, another lesson from the response to the pandemic and it relates to the development of a COVID vaccine and its distribution. Of particular concern is whether the states of the Global North will only recognize an obligation to protect their own citizens, thereby leaving large swaths of humanity to fend for themselves. If this is the case, the pandemic will most assuredly take the lives of that many more individuals. Yet, what we seem to be witnessing is that in the face of a global vaccine shortage combined with desperate domestic demand, few seem to think in terms of states having human rights obligations to people in other lands.


Markus Krajewski

University of Erlangen-Nürnberg

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