Consultation opens on proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005)

News article

16 January 2024

The Ministry of Health is inviting the views of New Zealanders on proposals to update a significant global health agreement.

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) aim to prevent and control the spread of disease and other public health hazards between countries to protect the health of their citizens. They define countries’ rights and obligations in handling public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders. While the IHR serve countries well we can improve the IHR to ensure the regulations continue to be fit for purpose.

International negotiations are currently being held on amendments to the IHR. The Ministry is interested in New Zealanders’ views on the proposed amendments to help inform New Zealand’s position as we contribute to the ongoing negotiations. You can comment of the proposed amendments here:

The consultation will run from Wednesday 17 January to Sunday 18 February.

The consultation is only one of the steps involved in considering whether the IHRs are in New Zealand’s national interest and will inform ongoing negotiations. Other steps that are still required before New Zealand agrees to be bound by changes to the IHRs include seeking agreement from Cabinet, conducting a National Interest Analysis, and presenting that Analysis and the text of the IHR changes to Parliament for Treaty Examination.

Signing IHR changes may create new international legal obligations for New Zealand. However, this doesn’t automatically change New Zealand law – only the New Zealand Parliament can do this.

The proposed IHR amendments

At the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022, governments agreed to establish the Working Group on the International Health Regulations (WGIHR) to develop a package of targeted amendments to the IHR. As a first step, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General asked Member States to share their proposals on how the IHR could be strengthened. Over 300 proposed amendments were submitted.

The amendments have yet to be finalised and the exact scope won’t be decided until April 2024. However, areas of negotiation include:

  • foundational articles including purpose and scope, principles, and responsible authorities
  • communicating a public health event
  • tiered alert system to determine a public health emergency of international concern
  • health measures to enable a prompt and effective response to public health risks (such as technical guidance, health products, technologies, knowledge sharing and health workforce)
  • international movement of travellers, baggage, cargo, containers, means of transport, goods, or postal parcels
  • digitalisation of health documents
  • establishing an Emergency, Implementation and Compliance Committee
  • IHR implementation.

Member states are now discussing these proposals within the WGIHR meeting process.

Further information:

  • This consultation does not relate to Cabinet’s decision on 29 November 2024, to reserve New Zealand’s position as to whether 2022 technical amendments should enter into force in New Zealand. Those technical amendments, agreed in May 2022 by countries, including New Zealand, are not part of the ongoing substantial IHR negotiations that are the focus of this consultation. View information about those technical amendments and New Zealand’s position.
  • Alongside the review of the IHR, the WHO Member States are working together to draft and negotiate an international legal instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, or ‘pandemic treaty’. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) are also currently consulting on the pandemic treaty. You can have your say here. It is expected that the negotiations will be completed in time for both the IHR amendments and the pandemic treaty to be considered by the World Health Assembly meeting in May 2024.
  • Further information about both the IHR and the Pandemic Treaty can be found on the Ministry’s website.
  • The full proposals to amend the regulations can be found on the WHO website.
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