The 77th World Health Assembly has concluded, with member countries agreeing on a series of amendments to International Health Regulations (IHR) and committing to finalise negotiations on a global pandemic agreement within one year.  

These pivotal decisions aim to establish enhanced healthcare systems worldwide to safeguard against future outbreaks and pandemics. 

The resolutions made by the 194-member assembly are a response to the urgent need for enhanced preparedness and surveillance regarding public health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The IHR amendments introduce a definition of a ‘pandemic emergency’ to facilitate more effective international collaboration when a communicable disease poses a significant threat of widespread impact. 

According to the assembly, the definition of pandemic emergency is based on a higher level of alarm on the current IHR mechanisms, including determining public health emergencies of international concern. 

The amendments call for the establishment of a coordinating financial mechanism to ensure equitable financial support for developing countries.  

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This mechanism will facilitate the development, strengthening, and maintenance of core capacities necessary for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. 

The creation of National IHR Authorities is part of the package, aiming to improve the coordination of the Regulations’ implementation within and among countries.  

The establishment of the states’ parties committee will further facilitate effective adherence to the amended Regulations, promoting cooperation among member states. 

Simultaneously, member countries of the World Health Assembly also resolved to persist in negotiating the proposed pandemic agreement.  

This initiative seeks to enhance international coordination, collaboration, as well as equity in preventing, preparing for, and responding to future pandemics. 

The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) have extended the mandate of the intergovernmental negotiating body, formed in December 2021, to complete the negotiation of a pandemic agreement by the World Health Assembly in 2025 or earlier if feasible. 

A special session is also planned to take place this year. 

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The amendments to IHR will bolster countries’ ability to detect and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics by strengthening their own national capacities, and coordination between fellow states, on disease surveillance, information sharing and response.”