Programme Overview

Global Health Law

The need for cooperation between States in the field of global health has been known since the 19th century, when the first efforts at international coordination in the fight against epidemics were made. These efforts were at the center of global discussions after the West African Ebola crisis in 2014 and again in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latter, due to its global impact, has highlighted multiple weaknesses in the level of pandemic preparedness of States to prevent and react to the threats posed by infectious diseases, whether in the short term to block their spread, or in the long term to face the sanitary, ethical, economic and social challenges resulting from a communicable disease and its management. The efforts of the international community to deal with this pandemic situation have been multiple: first, in financial terms, to meet the socio-economic needs of the populations; second, in political and strategic terms, since it is a question of thinking about how to better prepare our societies to face such threats, which are likely to increase in the future. In this context, the consensus decision adopted by the World Health Assembly in November 2021 to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international (legal) instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, has reminded us that international law is a central tool at the service of States and international cooperation in the field of global health. In reality, the need for the international community to strengthen the legal basis for its cooperation and action in the field of global health goes well beyond a need to be prepared against infectious diseases: it is more generally a matter of providing a collective and concerted response to many global health issues related to drug resistance, non-communicable diseases, mental health conditions, health inequities, access to primary health care services for all, implementation of universal health coverage, global lack of health workforce, etc.


Today, there exists a field of international or global health law which stands on its own in international law, with devoted institutions, legal norms, control and monitoring mechanisms and area of application. International law, as a central instrument in the toolbox of the international community to address global health challenges, must be taught, critically discussed, implemented, improved, and developed. Students and young professionals active in the broad field of global health should be well aware of the international legal environment applicable to global health issues and its potential. This course will provide an advanced overview of global health law: the actors involved, the legal norms already in place and the way they are implemented. It will focus more precisely on specific issues and adopt a challenges-oriented approach. For instance, special attention will be given to the WHO pandemic instrument that is currently being negotiated and that will still be in negotiation in summer 2023 at the time of the summer school as well as to the role played by global institutions more particularly involved in these discussions. Students will learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, class discussion and practical exercises. The approach will be guided by the in-depth examination of specific global health challenges and the analysis of the actors and norms involved in the resolution of these issues.

Learning outcomes
This Summer School will bring together distinguished scholars in global health law as well as practitioners and professionals. It will train a new generation of scholars in these topics and increase participants’ attention to and understanding of legal issues.
Knowledge and understanding

  1. Identify global health challenges and their origins
  2. Navigate the international legal environment applicable to global health
  3. Develop a critical understanding of global health law and governance

This 5-day course is intended for graduate students with a special interest in international law and global health challenges. It is expected that all participants already have a solid knowledge of public international law and the international legal system (they should have taken already 1-2 courses in public international law and/or global governance); this will enable more advanced discussions on global health law. The Summer School will provide participants with the unique opportunity to meet international experts from academia as well as professionals from international institutions in Geneva involved in the field of global health law and closely correlated areas. It will also provide an exciting opportunity to meet new people from around the world, share common interests and build an international network. The number of participants is limited to 30.

Professionals : CHF 1,000

External students : CHF 800

UNIGE students : CHF 200

Gian Luca Burci (Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland)
Stéphanie Dagron (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Lisa Forman (University of Toronto, Canada)
Steven Hoffman (York University, Canada)
Pedro Villarreal (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Germany)

This Summer School will bring together distinguished scholars in global health law (mostly members of the Global Health Law Consortium, as well as practitioners and professionals from international institutions in Geneva (WHO, WTO, WOAH, ILO, UNHCHR, GAVI etc).
Prof. Gian Luca Burci (Graduate institute)
Prof. Stéphanie Dagron (University of Geneva)
Prof Lisa Forman (Toronto University)
Dr. Jennifer Hasselgard-Rowe
Prof. Steven Hoffman (York University)
Dr. Pedro Villarreal (Max-Planck-Institute)