Significant progress has been achieved recently with regards to the numerous suggested modifications to the International Health Regulations 2005, bringing the total to over 300. During the fifth round of intensive discussions, the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR) convened.
This group consists of the 196 States Parties to the International Health Regulations, as well as the European Union and also the Observer Delegation of Palestine. The participants addressed proposed amendments, especially in the areas of:
- Points of Entry
- Public health measures
- General provisions.
- Final Provisions
- Definitions, purpose as well as scope, principles, and also responsible authorities
- The Emergency Committee
- The Decision Instrument when it comes to Assessment and Notification of Events
The Working Group additionally addressed a consolidated proposal by the States Parties who back the amendments to Article 13A, which focuses on Equitable Access to Health Products, Technologies, and Know-How for Public Health Response. In addition to this, they addressed the proposed amendments to Article 8, which relate to consultation.
It was agreed that work ought to keep going during the intersessional period. These efforts include:
- The proponents of various proposed amendments engage in discussions with the aim of providing any outcomes to the drafting group for assessment.
- The WGIHR will hold intersessional briefings and consultations to discuss articles, annexes, as well as topics that have been tackled in previous meetings. This includes subjects that have been the primary topic of intersessional work. This also encompasses work on funding for public health emergencies and the implementation of international health regulations. It also covers the Public Health Alert – PHEIC – pandemic spectrum, which includes definitions, criteria, and the process for determining each. The results of assisted intersessional consultations will not be considered agreed-upon text. However, they will be shared prior to the date of the next WGIHR meeting in December 2023.
- The Bureau, with the assistance of the Secretariat, will prepare draft text proposals based on the conversations held thus far. These proposals will be presented to the working group for consideration at the sixth meeting.
They will be actively addressing various issues during the intersessional period leading up to WGIHR6, and also in early 2024, and are confident in their ability to fulfil the task assigned by the 77th World Health Assembly, stated Dr. Abdullah Assiri, Co-Chair of WGIHR from Saudi Arabia.
They are highly committed to the mandate of delivering a comprehensive set of specific amendments to the IHR. The main objective is to ensure that equity is accurately represented in the IHR. Making the IHR worse would be a simple task. Enhancing them is going to be challenging. They will prioritise improving the difficult tasks, said Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, Co-Chair of WGIHR from New Zealand.
The Co-Chairs acknowledged that, based on Decision WHA75(9), it seemed improbable that a list of amendments would be prepared by January 2024. The Working Group has agreed to keep up its work from January to May 2024.
The Director-General will present the package of amendments, which has been agreed upon by the Working Group, to the 77th Health Assembly.
Apparently, the original International Sanitary Regulations were adopted in 1951 under the WHO Constitution. These regulations were created to establish agreed-upon approaches and responsibilities for countries in order to effectively anticipate and react to disease outbreaks and other acute public health events that have a likelihood of spreading internationally.
The International Sanitary Regulations underwent three revisions, which led to the establishment of the International Health Regulations in 1969. Subsequent modifications occurred in 1981 and 2005.
The International Health Regulations happen to be a legally binding instrument of international law that covers 196 state parties, including the 194 member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IHR, as adopted in 2005, has undergone two amendments in 2014 and 2022. The most recent amendments will take effect in May 2024. The proposed amendments happen to be an answer to the challenges presented by COVID-19.