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The Prevention Imperative: International Health and Environmental Governance Responses to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases

  • Patricia L. Farnese (a1)

Despite widespread recognition of the threat posed by emerging zoonotic diseases (EZDs) to human and animal health and the economy, the root causes of EZDs are largely ignored by the international community. In particular, the links between wildlife health, human-induced land-use change, and EZDs have not been adequately addressed. Generally, states are not required to evaluate the health impacts of land-use decisions within their territories. Similarly, global efforts to protect wild spaces are rarely identified as a health imperative. Where initiatives have been undertaken, they remain focused largely on detecting and controlling only those wildlife diseases that are known or suspected to be a threat to human and animal health or the economy. A critique of the existing international responses leaves no doubt that a preventative approach must be adopted to address human vulnerability to EZDs.

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1 Chua, K.B., ‘Nipah Virus Outbreak in Malaysia’ (2003) 26(3) Journal of Clinical Virology, pp. 267–75, at 266.

2 Kurup, A., ‘From Bats to Pigs to Man: the Story of Nipah Virus’ (2002) 11(2) Infectious Disease in Clinical Practice, pp. 52–7, at 52.

3 Ibid.

4 This article distinguishes ‘wildlife’ from other ‘animals’, particularly domesticated livestock and poultry.

5 Chua, n. 1 above.

6 Morse, S.S., ‘Factors and Determinants of Disease Emergence’ (2004) 23(2) Revue Scientifique et Technique, pp. 443–51, at 443.

7 Swift, L. et al. ., ‘Wildlife Trade and the Emergence of Infectious Diseases’ (2007) 4(1) Ecohealth, pp. 2530, at 25.

8 Patz, J.A. et al. ., ‘Unhealthy Landscapes: Policy Recommendations on Land Use Change and Infectious Disease Emergence’ (2004) 112(10) Environmental Health Perspectives, pp. 1092–8, at 1092.

9 Patz, J.A. et al. ., ‘Human Health: Ecosystem Regulation of Infectious Diseases’, in Hassan, R., Scholes, R. & Ash, N. (eds), Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends, Vol. 1 (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Board/Island Press, 2005) pp. 391416, at 393.

10 The following is a list of land-use activities that are known to have human health effects as compiled by leading environment health experts and presented in declining order of importance: ‘agricultural development, urbanization, deforestation, population movement, increasing population, introduction of novel species/pathogens, water and air pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, animal-intensive systems, eutrophication, military conflict, monocropping, and erosion’: ibid., at p. 1093.

11 Ibid.

12 Patz et al., n. 9 above, at p. 393.

13 Ibid.

14 Patz et al., n. 9 above, at p. 400.

15 Ibid., at p. 407.

16 Friend, M., Disease Emergence and Resurgence: The Wildlife-Human Connection (US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey, 2006), at p. 177.

17 Patz et al., n. 9 above, at p. 408.

18 Daszak, P., Cunningham, A.A. & Hyatt, A.D., ‘Emerging Infectious Diseases of Wildlife: Threats to Biodiversity and Human Health’ (2000) 287(5452) Science, pp. 443–9, at 443.

19 Patz et al., n. 8 above, at p. 1094.

20 Patz et al., n. 9 above, at p. 399.

21 Ibid., at p. 406.

22 Wobeser, G., ‘Disease Management Strategies for Wildlife’ (2002) 21(1) Revue Scientifique et Technique de l’Office International des Epizooties, pp. 159–78, at 173.

23 From this author’s perspective, an example of unnecessary contact between wildlife and humans is tourism in remote regions like Antarctica. The balance of harm to benefit does not justify the risk.

24 EZD threats have also occupied the meeting agendas of many regionally based agreements and organizations. The focus of this article, however, is on those international governance mechanisms in which any state may participate. Examples of regional agreements include the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), Bern (Switzerland), 19 Sept. 1979, in force 1 June 1982, available at:; the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC), available at:; and the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAM), available at:

25 Trouwborst, A., Caddell, R. & Couzens, E., ‘To Free or Not to Free? State Obligations and the Rescue and Release of Marine Mammals: A Case Study of Morgan the Orca’ (2013) 2(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 117–44, at 121.

26 N. 40 below.

27 N. 41 below.

28 N. 84 below.

29 N. 113 below.

30 N. 114 below.

31 N. 125 below.

32 N. 135 below.

33 N. 105 below.

34 The acronym OIE refers to the organization’s French name, Office International des Épizooties. See generally Gillespie, A., Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law (Edward Elgar, 2011), at p. 5; Kingsbury, B., ‘Global Environmental Governance as Administration’, in Bodansky, D., Brunnée, J. & Hey, E. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 6384, at p. 77.

35 See generally McManis, C., Biodiversity & the Law (Earthscan, 2009), at p. 2; Vogelson, J.M., American Bar Association Section of International Law and Practice Report to the House of Delegates – Food and Agriculture Organization’ (1996) 30 International Lawyer, pp. 426–40.

36 See generally Isasi, R.M. & Nguyen, T.M., ‘The Global Governance of Infectious Diseases: The World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations’ (2005) 43(2) Alberta Law Review, pp. 497510; McDougall, C.W. & Wilson, K., ‘Canada’s Obligations to Global Public Health Security under the Revised International Health Regulations’ (2007) 16(1) Health Law Review, pp. 2532.

37 Agreement between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office International des Épizooties (OIE), signed 16 Dec. 2004, available at:

38 Ibid., Art. 4.

39 Ibid., Art. 4.1.

40 The TAHC is published annually. The most recent (2013) version is available at:

41 Geneva (Switzerland), 23 May 2005, in force 15 June 2007, available at:

42 TAHC, n. 40 above, Glossary.

43 Ibid., Art. 1.1.3(1).

44 Ibid., Art. 1.1.3(1)(a); listed diseases can be found in TAHC, n. 40 above, Ch. 1.2.

45 Ibid., Art.1.2.2(3)(c).

46 Ibid., Art.1.2.2(5).

47 Ibid., Art. 1.1.3(1)(e).

48 Ibid., Glossary.

49 Ibid., Art 1.4.3(1)(c)(i)(ii) and (vii).

50 Cribb, A. et al. ., Healthy Animals, Healthy Canada: The Expert Panel on Approaches to Animal Health Risk Assessment (Council of Canadian Academics, 2011), at p. xiv.

51 Ibid., at p. 63.

52 M. Pappaioanou et al., Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases (National Academies Press, 2009), at p. 217.

53 Ibid., at p. 222.

54 ProMED-mail (available at: is an internet-based data collection system whereby anyone can upload information about an infectious disease event and that information will be assessed by a team of experts and disseminated to interested parties through email and the ProMed-mail website. ProMED-mail operates independently of government by the non-profit group, the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

55 GPHIN was created as a joint initiative between Health Canada and the WHO. Currently operated by the Public Health Agency of Canada, GPHIN continuously scans electronic information sources for information linked to public health events. It provides timely warning of potential threats to paid subscribers: Health Canada, ‘The Global Public Health Intelligence Network’, 2003, available at:

56 Pappaioanou et al., n. 52 above, at p. 248.

57 M.T. Osterholm, ‘Preparing for the Next Pandemic’ (2005) 84 (July/August) Foreign Affairs, pp. 24–37, at 28.

58 J. Pasick, Y. Berhane & K. Hooper-McGrevy, ‘Avian Influenza: The Canadian Experience’ (2009) 28(1) Revue Scientifique et Technique, pp. 349–58, at 352.

59 N. 41 above. The WHO oversees the development and implementation of the IHR, which are designed ‘to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade’: IHR, Art. 2.

60 Ibid., Glossary.

61 Patz et al., n. 9 above, at p. 348.

62 IHR, n. 41 above, Annex, s.5(b).

63 Ibid., Art. 6(1).

64 Ibid., Art. 7.

65 Ibid.

66 Zacher, M.W., ‘The Transformation in Global Health Collaboration since the 1990s’, in Cooper, A.F., Kirton, J.J. & Schrecker, T. (eds), Governing Global Health: Challenge, Response, Innovation (Ashgate, 2007), pp. 1528, at 21.

67 WHO, ‘Update 37 – WHO Extends its SARS-related Travel Advice to Beijing and Shanxi Province in China and to Toronto Canada’, 23 April 2003, available at:

68 FAO et al. ., Contributing to One World, One Health: A Strategic Framework for Reducing Risks of Infectious Diseases at the Animal-Human-Ecosystems Interface (FAO, 2008).

69 Ibid., at p. 6 (emphasis added).

70 Ibid., at p. 24 (emphasis added).

71 OIE & FAO, ‘The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs)’, signed 24 May 2004, available at:

73 GF-TADs, n. 71 above, at p. 22.

74 Ibid., at p. 25.

75 Ibid., Annex 2.

76 FAO, OIE & WHO, Global Early Warning and Response System for Major Animal Diseases, including Zoonoses (GLEWS), released Feb 2006, at p. 5, available at:

77 Ibid., at p. 6

78 GLEWS, ‘Enhancing the Monitoring of Wildlife Health Threats to Improve Global Surveillance, Risk Assessment and Early Warning to Support One Health’, 2013, available at:

79 Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance Response, A Framework for Global Outbreak Alert and Response (WHO, 2000), at p. 2.

80 WHO, ‘Global Alert and Response’, 2013, available at:

81 Smith, K.M. et al. ., ‘Zoonotic Viruses Associated with Illegally Imported Wildlife Products’ (2012) 7(1) PLoS One e29505, pp. 19, at 2, available at:

82 See generally Karesh, W.B. et al. ., ‘Implications of Wildlife Trade on the Movement of Avian Influenza and Other Infectious Diseases’ (2007) 43(3) Journal of Wildlife Diseases, pp. 55–9.

83 Daszak, Cunningham & Hyatt, n. 18 above, at p. 446.

84 Washington, DC (US), 3 Mar. 1973, in force 1 July 1975, available at:

85 Karesh et al., n. 82 above, at p.55.

86 Ibid., at p. 56.

87 Ibid.

88 In fact, it is estimated that only drugs and human trafficking surpass the total value of the illegal trade in wildlife, which very likely surpasses the illegal arms trade: see L.S. Wyler & P.A. Sheikh, ‘International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy’, in CRS Report for Congress (Congressional Research Service, 2008), at p. 2.

89 Ibid., at p. 17.

90 N. 84 above.

91 CITES AC26 Doc. 23 (Rev. 1), ‘Relationship Between Wildlife Trade and Wildlife Diseases’, available at: See generally Sands, P. & Galizzi, P., Documents in International Environmental Law (2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, 2004), at p. 661; Hutton, J. and Dickson, B., Endangered Species Threatened Convention: The Past, Present and Future of CITES, (Earthscan, 2000), at p. 3.

92 Ibid.

93 CITES Res. Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP15), ‘Criteria for Amendment for Appendices I and II’, available at:

94 CITES Res. Conf. 10.7 (Rev. CoP15), ‘Disposal of Confiscated Live Specimens of Species Included in the Appendices’, available at: Although it may appear inconsistent with the CITES mandate, disposal by euthanasia is typically identified as the most appropriate way to deal with confiscated wildlife. Because of the disease risks to wild populations, releasing confiscated wildlife is not encouraged. Similarly, maintaining the animals in captivity is rarely a viable option as few facilities exist that can house these animals. Nevertheless, even if a suitable facility can be found, the confiscated animal may still pose a disease threat to the wildlife already housed in those facilities.

95 CITES Res. Conf. 12.10 (Rev. CoP15), ‘Registration of Operations that Breed Appendix I Animal Species in Captivity for Commercial Purposes’, available at:

96 Ibid.

97 CITES, Guidelines for Transport and Preparation for Shipment of Live Wild Plants and Animals (CITES Secretariat, 1981). Although the CITES guidelines exist, most air carriers look to the standards set by the Live Animal Regulations of the International Air Transport Association when shipping wildlife, available at:

98 CITES Guidelines, ibid., at s. 1.2.

99 Ibid., at ss. 1.6 and 1.13.

100 Ibid., at s. 2.3.

101 CITES Res. Conf. 13.9, ‘Encouraging Cooperation between Parties with Ex Situ Breeding Operations and Those with In Situ Conservation Programmes’, available at:

102 Lewis, M.G., ‘CITES and Rural Livelihoods: The Role of CITES in Making Wildlife Conservation and Poverty Reduction Mutually Supportive’ (2009) 12(4) Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, pp. 248–75, at 254.

103 Ibid., at p. 255.

104 CITES Res. Conf. 13.2 (Rev. Cop14), ‘Sustainable Use of Biodiversity: Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines’, available at:

105 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 4 Jun. 1993, in force 29 Dec. 1993, available at:

106 CITES Res. Conf. 13.11, ‘Bushmeat’, available at:

107 Lewis, n. 102 above, at p. 256.

108 See generally Naughton-Treves, L., ‘Whose Animals? A History of Property Rights to Wildlife in Toro, Western Uganda’ (1999) 10(4) Land Degradation & Development, pp. 311–28.

109 Wyler & Sheikh, n. 88 above, at p. 6.

110 CITES Res. Conf. 13.11, n. 106 above.

111 CITES Res. Conf. 11.3 (Rev. CoP15), ‘Compliance and Enforcement’, available at:

112 Ibid.

113 Palermo (Italy), 12 Dec. 2000, in force 29 Sept. 2003, available at: See generally Yussouf, G., ‘Global Human Trafficking and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime’ (2008) 1(1) University College London Human Rights Review, pp. 179–99.

114 Merida (Mexico), 9 Dec. 2003, in force 14 Dec. 2005, available at: See generally Burger, E.S. & Holland, M.S., ‘Why the Private Sector is Likely to Lead the Next Stage in the Global Fight against Corruption’ (2006–07) 30(1) Fordham International Law Journal, pp. 60–1.

115 UNCC, ibid.

116 Fidler, D.P., ‘A Pathology of Public Health Securitism: Approaching Pandemics as Security Threats’, in Cooper, A.F., Kirton, J.J. & Schrecker, T. (eds), Governing Global Health: Challenge, Response, Innovation (Ashgate, 2007), pp. 4166, at 41.

117 CBD, n. 105 above.

118 Ibid., Annex I, Art. 5.

119 Ibid., Annex I, Art. 31.

120 Ibid., Annex I, Art. 19.

121 Ibid., Annex I, Art. 27.

122 Ibid., Annex I, Art. 29.

123 Wyler & Sheikh, n. 88 above, at p. 22.

124 N. 114 above.

125 Bonn (Germany), 23 June 1979, in force 1 Nov. 1983, available at:

126 See generally Gillespie, n. 34 above, at p. 5; Kingsbsury, n. 34 above, at p. 77.

127 Bonn Convention, n. 125 above, Art. 3.4.

128 UNEP/CMS/Resolution 8.27, ‘Migratory Species and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza’, s. 1, available at:

129 UNEP/CMS/Resolution 9.8, ‘Responding to the Challenge of Emerging and Re-Emerging Diseases in Migratory Species, Including Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1’, s. 6, available at:

130 Ibid., s. 9.

131 Parties to each sub-agreement reflect the range of the species targeted.

132 Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, The Hague (the Netherlands), 16 June 1995, in force 1 Nov. 1999, [2006] OJ L 345/26, 8 Dec. 2006, available at:

133 UNEP/EUROBATS, Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats, London (United Kingdom), 4 Dec. 1991, in force 16 Jan. 1994, available at: (EUROBATS)

134 UNEP/CMS/AEWA Resolution 3.18, ‘Avian Influenza’, s. 6, available at:

135 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Ramsar (Iran), 2 Feb 1971, in force 21 Dec 1975, available at: See generally Sands & Galizzi, n. 91 above, at p. 636; Podolsky, M.J., ‘U.S. Wetlands Policy, Legislation and Case Law as Applied to the Wise Use Concept of the Ramsar Convention’ (2001) 52 Case Western Reserve Law Review, pp. 627–53.

136 Ramsar Convention, ibid., Art. 2.1.

137 Ibid., Art.3.1. Wise use is defined as ‘the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development’: Res IX.1, ‘A Conceptual Framework for the Wise Use of Wetlands and the Maintenance of Their Ecological Character’, Annex A, Art. 22.

138 Cromie, R. et al. ., Ramsar Wetland Disease Manual: Guidelines for Assessment, Monitoring and Management of Animal Disease in Wetlands (Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2012), at p. 16.

139 Horwitz, P., Finlayson, C.M. & Weinstein, P., Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People: A Review of Wetlands and Human Health Interactions, Ramsar Technical Report No. 6 (Ramsar Convention Secretariat/WHO, 2012), at p. 1.

140 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh Country Office, ‘Role of Wild Birds in the Persistence and Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza’, Proceedings of the Bangladesh Workshop, 17–19 Mar. 2009, at p. vii, available at:

141 Ramsar Res. IX.23, ‘Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and its Consequences for Wetland and Waterbird Conservation and Wise Use’, Art. 17, available at:

142 Ibid., at s. 22.

143 Ramsar Res. X.21, ‘Guidance on Responding to the Continued Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza’, Art. 2, available at: Ibid., Art. 12.

144 Gillespie, A., ‘Science, Values and People: The Three Factors that Will Define the Next Generation of International Conservation Agreements’ (2011) 1(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 169–82, at 174.

145 N. 105 above.

146 CBD, n. 105 above, Art. 1. See generally Kiss, A. & Shelton, D., International Environmental Law (Martinus Nijhoff, 2007), at p. 178; C. McManis, n. 35 above, at p. 1; Snape, W.J. III, ‘Joining the Convention on Biological Diversity: A Legal and Scientific Overview of Why the United States Must Wake Up’ (2010) 10(3) Sustainable Development Law and Policy, pp. 618.

147 CBD COP 10 Dec. X/2, ‘Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020’, available at:

148 Ibid., Target 4.

149 Ibid., Target 5.

150 Trouwborst, A., ‘Prevention, Precaution, Logic and Law: The Relationship Between the Precautionary Principle and the Preventative Principle in International Law and Associated Questions’ (2009) 2(2) Erasmus Law Review, pp. 105–27, at 111.

151 The ill-conceived strategy of responding to HPAI by destroying wetlands has specifically been identified as contributing to the spread of the disease because birds congregated in larger numbers around the remaining wetlands. In addition to direct animal contact, chronic wasting disease is believed also to be transferable through environmental contamination. Similarly, use of water from wetlands to water poultry was thought to be the origin of HPAI in multiple outbreaks of the disease in poultry barns in Canada.

152 Simon, W., Toyota Jurisprudence: Legal Theory and Rolling Rule Regimes, Paper No. 04–79, Columbia Law School: Public Law & Legal Theory Working Paper Group, pp. 1–41, at 4, available at:

153 Ibid., at p. 5.

154 Ibid., at p. 3.

155 Ibid., at p. 10.

156 FAO et al., n. 68 above, at pp. 29–30.

157 Collins, J. & Kaplan, J.P., ‘Health Impact Assessment: A Step Toward Health in All Policies’ (2009) 302(3) Journal of the American Medical Association, pp. 315–9, at 317.

158 A recently published study systematically reviewed the available evidence and concluded that there was a close link between agricultural intensification and EZDs: Jones, B.A. et al. ., ‘Zoonosis Emergence Linked to Agricultural Intensification and Environmental Change’ (2013) 110(21) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, pp. 8399–404.

159 See, e.g., the resources related to agriculture referenced by University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, available at:

160 See See generally Gillespie, n. 34 above, at p. 8.

161 IPBES, ‘Functions, Operating Principles and Institutional Arrangements of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’, 21 Apr. 2012, available at:

Research for this paper was funded through SHRF-CIHR RPP Grant RSN-113769. The author wishes to thank the editors of Transnational Environmental Law and their reviewers for their insightful and constructive comments. My analysis benefitted greatly from their assistance and advice.

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