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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 23, 2007

International Law and Justice

Jan Sutherland, Elaine Gibson
Pages 133-148
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday20072317

Cosmopolitanism and Global Public Health

In this paper we examine a nation’s obligations to report infectious diseases under the World Health Organization’s new International Health Regulations. We argue that acceptance of the Regulations signals a concrete turn to cosmopolitan citizenship in the area of health. But we also show that the new global health regime and its economic consequences raise ethical tensions for both the conceptualization and practice of cosmopolitanism. Specifically: 1) using global public heath as a lens makes visible how current conceptions of cosmopolitan theory are not truly in conversation with those who are the subject of their concern; and, 2) focusing on global public health illustrates the limits of present cosmopolitan citizenship. In matters of virulent pathogens, nations are required to be good global citizens by protecting citizens of other states in the absence of a framework by which other states bear some of the costs that such global citizenship demands.

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