Do sovereign states have cosmopolitan duties? A traditional definition of sovereignty as the supreme and ultimate power over a territory suggests a skeptical answer. Despite sovereignty’s extraterritorial manifestations in the global era, its parceling in the context of international economic and political cooperation, and the constraints brought to it by the human rights regime, it remains the hallmark of statism as opposed to cosmopolitanism. This was true already in 2019. In 2021 it is in everyone’s eyes. From travel bans and border closures, to vaccine nationalism and vaccine passports, the sovereign state has been the mastermind in the regulatory response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cosmopolitan-oriented responses such as the Covax initiative and the NextGeneration EU fund have been noticeable more for their limits than for their achievement. As a result, the pandemic has profoundly challenged any cosmopolitan conception of sovereignty. This has been while, paradoxically, it has brought a truly cosmopolitan challenge that per se treats all of humanity as equal.
This paradox provides novel ground to interrogate the several strands of thought between international relations, law and political theory that have endeavored to lay the normative foundations for cosmopolitan obligations of sovereign states. Demoicracy, republican intergovernmentalism, non-domination theory, fiduciary theories of sovereignty, interlegality all push towards an ‘other-regardingness’ obligation that stretches the duties of sovereign states in a cosmopolitan direction.
This forum aims at bringing together these different perspectives and explore their viability on the backdrop of the pandemic experience. Participants will address one or more of the following questions: what are the theoretical premises to deploy sovereignty in a cosmopolitan perspective? What are the possible legal applications of a cosmopolitan conception of sovereignty – e.g. right to migrate, citizenship, solidarity? What are the practical and theoretical obstacles in the way? What lessons can we draw from the pandemic on the above questions?
Rethinking the potential, scope and normative premises of cosmopolitan sovereignty is an unavoidable exercise in order to deal with the legacies of the pandemic for the legal order and in order to re-think the international relations that it will leave wounded. This forum begins the exercise in view of inspiring urgent new work in this sense.