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The Epic Failure of Global Health Security on Ebola

Global Health
David Fidler

"The process of conducting forensics on the Ebola tragedy is underway. International health reform ideas and proposals, such as creating a global public health reserve workforce, have been proffered by actors including the World Health Organization (WHO). Whether these efforts can trigger another political transformation in global health, to match the one that produced the strategy for global health security, remains to be seen—but early indicators, such as uncer- tain prospects for major increases in global health spending, are not promising. International politics—both specific to global health and more generally—do not appear conducive to sustaining the reforms that the Ebola outbreak has demonstrated are needed. These reforms would ask states to accomplish politi- cal, institutional, and legal objectives that they have never accepted, even after outbreaks potentially more dangerous than Ebola. In short, the failures of the Ebola response may not produce the changes necessary to sustain global health security as a strategic priority in global politics. "


David P. Fidler is the James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He is one of the world’s leading experts on international law and global health. His books on this topic include Biosecurity in the Global Age: Biological Weapons, Public Health, and the Rule of Law (Stanford University Press, 2008; coauthored by Lawrence O. Gostin), SARS, Governance, and the Globalization of Disease (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), and International Law and Infectious Diseases (Clarendon Press, 1999). Professor Fidler has been appointed by the Director-General of the World Health Organization as a member of the Roster of Experts for the International Health Regulations (2005). He is an Associate Fellow with the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House in London. In 2015, he serves as a member of the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, established by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and is a Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.