Public health and sustainable development

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course purports to offer an advanced analysis of selected issues concerning public health and sustainable development from the perspective of public international law. In particular, the course aims at:
- setting the international health law framework (norms and actors);
- exploring the synergies between the SDG no. 3 and the right to health;
- analyzing the rules aimed at managing epidemics;
- looking at the right to health "in action", through an analysis of high-profile lawsuits before international, regional and national courts;
- outlining the interplay between human right law and other rules of international law, including international trade law, in the field of health protection
Expected learning outcomes
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
- have familiarity with public health governance at the international level;
- have advanced knowledge of the right to health under international human rights law;
- understand and evaluate critically the solutions given in high-profile health-related cases before international, regional and national courts;
- assess the interplay between human right law and other rules of international law, including international trade law;
- learn how to read and interpret complex health-related decisions adopted by international courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the International Court of Justice and the WTO DSBs
- acquire and use written and oral communication skills as regards the issues dealt with in the course and use them to build solid legal arguments using appropriate legal concepts and language
- develop a method of independent research and study of the topics dealt with in the course, by learning how to search and use primary sources, case-law, and scholarship.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester

Classes of the courses offered by the LM in Sustainable Development will be delivered in distance learning modality. They will be live-streamed on Microsoft Teams, following the lessons timetable. All classes will be recorded and will be available on the online platform until the end of the semester.

Students will be informed as soon as possible, through the ARIEL website of the Course, if there will be a possibility to attend in person some classes at the University premises. This possibility will depend upon the evolution of the emergency and related safety measures, and the needs and preferences of students. In this case, students willing to attend classes will be required to reserve their seat through the LezioniUnimi app ( Home > study > bachelor-and-master-study > following-your-programme-of-study >. Strict compliance with the COVID protocol (facemask-wearing, social distancing, hands disinfection, etc ) will be required in the classrooms and all the University premises. In any case, all classes will be live-streamed and recorded and will be available on the online platform, in order to meet the needs of those unable or unwilling to attend in person.

The course will alternate and combine lectures and seminar teaching and will be tailored to match the learning necessities of students attending physically and remotely alike. Classes may require prior readings and include pre-recorded components.

To cope with possible connection and/or time zone issues, simultaneous course attendance (i.e. connection on the platform at the scheduled time) will not be mandatory. However, the Course will be based on class interaction. Therefore, students are strongly advised to strive to be able to attend the online classes.

The course programme is unchanged. However, the specific contents of classes will adapt to the teaching methods outlined above.

Reference materials for each class will be adjusted to the distance learning modality and uploaded to the Ariel course website.


Assessment methods will not change, except that oral and written exam may take place by remote through distance learning platforms (Microsoft Teams for oral exams and for written exams). Instructions will be posted on the ARIEL website of the course.
In case the possibility of exams in persons will be reinstated at the material time, students unable to be physically present will be offered an alternative method from distance.
Course syllabus
The course purports to offer an advanced analysis of selected issues concerning public health and sustainable development from the perspective of public international law. The course (42 hours) is structured in two modules.
The first and main part of the course (30 hours), 'Module 1: Health as a Human Right: Norms, Actors, and Responsibility', explores key issues of public health, with a particular focus on the international human rights law framework. It consists of three parts:
Part I ('General Introduction') outlines the relevant norms aimed at protecting the right to health, and the international actors involved in this field.
Part II ('Epidemics and Disasters Law') delves into the prevention, preparedness and response of epidemics and other disaster events (whether man-made or natural), by examining case-studies and how the different set of rules interact with each other (i.e. the 2005 International Health Regulations, the ILC 2016 Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, the ILC 2001 Draft Articles on the Prevention of Transboundary Harm from Hazardous Activities). Particular attention will be devoted to the managing of pandemic diseases, in light of the most recent pandemic outbreaks (Ebola, SARS, MERS, Zika, and COVID-19).
Part III ('Right to Health in Action') looks into high-profile health-related disputes before international, regional and national courts. By analyzing public health litigation, students will be able to grasp the content of the right to health, its synergies with the notion of Sustainable Development, the interaction between different legal regimes, and the balance between competing interests.

The second part of the course (12 hours), 'Module 2: Health and International Trade Law', offers a cursory insight on the interplay between the right to health and other rules of international law, namely trade law under the WTO law. The aim is to assess whether and to what extent the latter rules impinge on the right to health.
Prerequisites for admission
A sound knowledge of international law is highly recommended.
Teaching methods
Class attendance is mandatory (75% of the total classes).
The didactic method combines both traditional approach (lecturing by the Professor and content-oriented) and more informal or interactive methods (mock trials, group works and presentations by students).
Teaching Resources
The syllabus available on-line (ARIEL platform) contains a list of reading materials both mandatory and suggested.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Students are evaluated through interim written exams taken at the end of the two modules, and through presentations and group works.
IUS/13 - INTERNATIONAL LAW - University credits: 6
Lessons: 42 hours
To set up an appointment, please write an e-mail to:
To set up an appointment, please write an e-mail to: