What are the International Health Regulations or IHR (2005) and Why does the world community need them to enhance International Health Security?

The International Health Regulations (2005) or ‘IHR (2005)’ are an international law which helps countries working together to save lives and livelihoods caused by the international spread of diseases and other health risks.

The IHR(2005) aim to prevent, protect against, control and respond to the international spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. The IHR (2005) are also designed to reduce the risk of disease spread at international airports, ports and ground crossings.

Born of an extraordinary global consensus, the IHR (2005) strengthen the collective defences against the multiple and varied public health risks that today’s globalized world is facing and which have the potential to be rapidly spread through expanding travel and trade.

The IHR (2005) establish a new set of rules to support the existing global outbreak alert and response system and to require countries to improve international surveillance and reporting mechanisms for public health events and to strengthen their national surveillance and response capacities.

This makes the IHR (2005) a necessary and very timely new public health instrument, central to ensuring international public health security.

You may also know purpose of IHR  :

The International Health Regulations (2005) or “IHR (2005)” or “the Regulations” are a legally binding agreement among WHO Member States and other States that have agreed to be bound by them (States Parties). The IHR (2005) define their “purpose and scope” as: “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”.

As of 15 June 2007, the provisions of these Regulations will direct and govern particular WHO and States Parties activities aiming to protect the global community from public health risks and emergencies that cross international borders.

These activities are implemented in ways that are consistent with other international law and agreements; their implementation must “be with full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedom of persons” and “guided by the goal of their universal application for the protection of all people of the world from the international spread of disease”.

Legal status of the IHR (2005) and how do they enter into force for States?

Under the WHO Constitution, all WHO Member States are automatically bound by the new IHR (2005) unless they affirmatively opt out within a limited time period, namely by 15 December 2006. No WHO Member State has completely opted out, and only a very small number made reservations. According to the procedures established in the IHR (2005), reservations are evaluated by other WHO Member States within a defined time period.

If a particular percentage of States do not object, the Regulations will enter into force for the States that have filed them subject to the reservation(s).

If at least one third of the other States object to the reservation(s), the State filing the reservation(s) may withdraw the reservation(s) within a set period or request the Director-General of WHO to seek the views of a Review Committee. The Review Committee advises the Director-General on the practical impact of the reservation(s) on the operation of the Regulations.

The Director-General then submits the reservation and any views from the Review Committee to the World Health Assembly for its consideration. If the Assembly, by majority vote, objects to the reservation(s) the Regulations will only enter into force for the reserving States if it withdraws the reservation(s).

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Amit Sharma

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