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World Health Assembly Adopts Landmark Amendments to International Health Regulations

Geneva: In a historic stride towards bolstering global health security, the 77th World Health Assembly has adopted a comprehensive package of amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). This significant development comes in response to 300 proposals from member countries, following the lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The targeted amendments are designed to enhance countries’ preparedness and response capabilities for Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC) and Pandemic Emergencies (PE). Key provisions include facilitating equitable access to essential health products during such emergencies and mobilizing financial resources to support developing nations in building and maintaining the core capacities mandated by the IHR (2005).

Shri Apurva Chandra, Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, expressed his excitement over the milestone. “With the revision of the International Health Regulations, an incredible milestone has been reached,” he said. “This is a further step towards equity and the creation of an umbrella of solidarity that will help protect the world from future pandemic threats. This is a gift to our children and grandchildren.”

The journey to these amendments began almost two years ago, with the Working Group on International Health Regulations (WGIHR) and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on the Pandemic Treaty initiating the negotiation process. The groups, comprising country representatives, faced numerous challenges and near deadlocks over various positions.

To finalize the amendments, a pivotal proposal was introduced by Shri Apurva Chandra on May 28, 2024, in the form of a White Paper. As Chair of Committee A of the World Health Assembly, Chandra proposed the establishment of a single drafting group. This group, co-chaired by a Bureau member from both the INB and the WGIHR, was tasked with addressing critical agenda items related to the IHR amendments and procedural matters for the INB negotiations on the Pandemic Treaty. The proposal received unanimous approval from all member states.

Through concerted effort and determination, the single drafting group, alongside the WHO secretariat and member state representatives, achieved a consensus on the IHR amendments during the assembly session. India played a pivotal role in shaping the instrument, which aims to operationalize equity and enable an effective response by developing countries to public health emergencies.

As a result of these efforts, the resolution to amend the IHR (2005) was adopted by consensus on June 1, 2024, marking a new era in global health governance and cooperation.

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