Review of International Health Regulations Makes Space in Treaty Talks

The opposition to the idea of a pandemic treaty appears to be strengthening, even as there is emerging preference for a revision of existing rules such as the International Health Regulations, in order to better address future emergencies.On-going discussions suggest that WHO member states might prefer other ways to govern pandemic preparedness and response instead of crafting a new instrument. As in other policy spheres, these matters too, are being driven by geopolitical considerations.

At a meeting this week, the working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies (WGPR), set up to discuss the need for a new legal instrument to address future health emergencies, many countries seemed to be in favor of strengthening the International Health Regulations (IHRs) instead of forging ahead for a new pandemic treaty according to multiple sources familiar with the proceedings.

While the working group has several weeks to submit a report to be considered at the Special Session of the World Health Assembly session in November, for now it appears that some member states have managed to bring treaty supporters to discuss the possibility of first amending the IHRs even as discussions continue on the feasibility of a new legal instrument. As things stand now, proponents of the treaty, have not yet been able to persuade a vast majority of WHO member states to consider a pandemic treaty.

Photo by Mitchell Luo from Pexels

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