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Pandemic-related challenges can create positive transformation of international law, scholars say during webinar hosted by UHLC's Initiative on Global Law and Policy

March 4, 2021 - Experts from Colombia and Italy discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic can potentially challenge international law experts to think beyond current normative parameters and serve as a standardizing force during a virtual discussion hosted by the University of Houston Law Center's Initiative on Global Law and Policy. "Constitutionalism, Trade, Social Justice, & Sustainability in the Americas: Lessons from the 2020 Global Pandemic," was the second event in a six-part series, co-sponsored by the University of Bologna Center for Latin American Studies and the American Society of International Law-Latin America Interest Group.

The webinar series is being 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 Center for Latin American Studies.

Law professor, René Urueña of The University of The Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, was the webinar's keynote speaker, with Professor Lorenzo Casini of the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca in Italy serving as a discussant. Casini currently serves as Chief of Staff of the Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

Urueña's presentation focused on inequality as the defining challenge to international law as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.  He discussed how the pandemic creates an opportunity for the international law community to embrace distributive justice as a normative commitment to international law frameworks.  In furtherance of this commitment, Urueña suggested that international lawyers and scholars should implement goals that push the traditional boundaries that govern international law for a common moral cause that prioritizes equality through legal measures. He stressed that international law should set the threshold of distributive justice as one that better addresses the vital needs of those excluded from access to essential goods and services rather than the more traditional focus on distribution of income.

In his commentary, Casini emphasized how the fight against COVID-19 can increase the level of inequality within a nation regardless of its geography and that solutions primarily still reside within the state.  For example, he discussed how the pandemic and subsequent regulations created an extra burden on women in Italy's workforce, which is comparable to the challenges faced by women in the U.S.

"Of course experiences are different state by state in terms of how COVID spread and in terms of the number of victims and the measures adopted state by state," Casini said. "It's not only a problem comparing states amongst themselves, but within the state with the different aspects in terms of income, geography and a huge issue of gender that COVID really affected.

"The dynamics of keeping people at home, and having the problem of going to work set us back decades. The state tried to implement measures to avoid gender inequality, but this didn't happen. The family dimension somehow recreated the role of the woman that is no longer acceptable."

"COVID pushes global lawyers to take the response to inequality more seriously as a normative commitment, a doctrinal construct and a cognitive framework," Urueña said. "We should redefine the idea of international community that goes beyond market integration, globalization and global law, including new goals within international endeavors.”

The remaining schedule for the speaker series, "Constitutionalism, Trade, Social Justice, and Sustainability in the Americas: Lessons from the 2020 Global Pandemic," and registration information can be found below:

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