Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

8. International Health Regulations and Epidemic Control

Johan Giesecke

2. Achieving agreement on revised IHR

  • Strengthened national surveillance
  • Contemporary negotiation process
  • Working with trade
  • An insurance solution?

An international agreement on a revised IHR could be achieved through:

  • Strengthened national surveillance. This would act as an 'access good' necessary to achieve the primary goal of the alert and control of epidemics. IHR could include minimum requirements for any national surveillance system, with a time plan for when these should be met.
  • Contemporary negotiation process. There has been a tendency to regard the IHR revision as a task for experts on public health and surveillance, but this view leaves out the equally, if not more, important aspect of traffic and trade.
  • Working with trade. WTO increasingly deals with issues of trade and health. Since the membership of the WTO and the WHO largely coincide, there is a risk that countries will find themselves bound by two conflicting international agreements. The revision of the IHR therefore needs to proceed in close collaboration with the WTO.
  • An insurance solution? If it is agreed that the early detection and control of epidemics is a global public good, but that the threat of economic repercussions prevent a global surveillance system from functioning, one could speculate how this hurdle could be removed. For example, an outbreak of serious infectious disease could be seen as a natural disaster, against the consequences of which it should be possible to obtain insurance. A pre-requisite for the refund of economic losses could then be that the country had followed the procedures laid down in the IHR.