Strengthening global health and international pandemic response

Australia is working closely with the global community, including the World Health Organization, to reform and strengthen global health systems. These include updates to the International Health Regulations and the development of a new pandemic response agreement.

About global health reforms

We work closely with the global health community, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to improve the health and wellbeing for all people worldwide.

Global health reforms aim to:

  • strengthen international responses to pandemics and other health emergencies
  • improve global health.

Taking part in these reforms helps to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians.

Australian sovereignty and global health reforms

Global health reforms do not affect Australia’s sovereignty to determine its domestic health policies, including public health and safety measures such as:

  • border control measures
  • use of masks and vaccines.

For more information, see impacts on domestic Australian law.

Changes to International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations (IHR):

At the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024, the 194 Member States of the WHO agreed to adopt targeted changes to the IHR put forward by the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (WGIHR). The agreed IHR changes are available on the WHO website

 These changes will: 

  • build capacity of each country to prepare for and respond to health emergencies;
  • strengthen public health response measures, including equitable access to health products needed to respond to global public health emergencies;
  • improve information sharing and early responses to disease outbreaks; and
  • strengthen countries’ implementation of the IHR.

New international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to strengthen the international community’s response to future pandemics.

WHO set up an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) in December 2021. The INB's role is to draft a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (the pandemic agreement). Australia actively participates in the INB. Reports of each meeting are available on the INB website.

At the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024, the Assembly noted that strong progress has been achieved on the pandemic agreement, however more work is needed to ensure the world is better prepared for future pandemics. WHO Member States have agreed to continue negotiations and finalise the pandemic agreement by the 78th World Health Assembly in May 2025, or earlier if possible. The decision to continue negotiations is available on WHO website. Australia will continue to participate in discussions to help achieve the best possible outcome and ensure Australian interests are advanced.

Australia’s goals and priorities

The Australian Government’s engagement in multilateral global health organisations allows us to advocate for international rules, norms and standards in the interest of the health and wellbeing of the Australian community. We know certain health threats are more likely to arise overseas. International cooperation, guided by international rules, norms and standards, is critical for Australia to be able to monitor and respond to these challenges.

Australia is committed to strengthening the global health system to prevent and respond to future pandemics by:

  • building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • taking part in negotiations on a new pandemic agreement. 

Australia's engagement in the pandemic agreement negotiation process is guided by the following principles:

  • Ensure a new pandemic agreement can support countries to respond to health challenges.
  • Better position Australia, our region, and the international community to prevent pandemics.
  • Maintain Australia’s sovereignty to make and implement decisions to protect the health of Australians.
  • Promote fairness, advance gender equality, and uphold human rights. 
  • Support engagement with private and civil society stakeholders.
  • Ensure alignment with other relevant international agreements.
  • Uphold intellectual property rights. 

Australia is advocating for the below priorities:

  • Enhanced global, regional and national health capacities to better position the international community to respond to pandemics.
  • Enhanced sharing of information and materials on diseases with pandemic potential.
  • Equitable and timely access to health emergency countermeasures, such as vaccines, medicines and personal protective equipment.
  • A One Health approach: recognising that the relationship between human, animal and environmental health should guide pandemic prevention.
  • Enhanced WHO ability to assess and respond rapidly to outbreaks.
  • Strengthened national and global investment in health emergency prevention and preparedness.
  • Effective governance, accountability, and compliance mechanisms to support the implementation of the pandemic agreement.

Who we work with

To achieve these goals, we and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) are working with:

  • other Australian Government agencies
  • state and territory governments
  • the Australian public and interest groups
  • the international community
  • multilateral groups and organisations, including WHO and the G20.

Impacts on domestic Australian law

The Australian Government will decide whether or not to agree to:

  • The IHR changes adopted by the 77th World Health Assembly; and
  • The new pandemic agreement, once adopted by the World Health Assembly.  

Signing a new international agreement and the targeted changes to the IHR may create new international legal obligations for Australia. However, this will not automatically change Australian law. 

The Australian Parliament will consider both processes before Australia takes binding action. This includes consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). 

The changes to the IHR will come into effect 12 months after the WHO formally notifies Member States, including Australia, of the changes, unless Australia makes a reservation or rejects the changes within 10 months of receiving that notice. JSCOT will make recommendations to the Australian Parliament on whether Australia should accept, reject or make reservations on these changes. In due course, JSCOT will also consider the pandemic agreement, once adopted by the World Health Assembly. 

JSCOT consults with stakeholders and members of the public on the proposed international instruments. JSCOT may invite those who had a submission to participate in the public hearing. Information on how to be involved in this will be available at Joint Standing Committee on Treaties at the relevant time.  

After JSCOT consideration, any proposed changes to Australian law will be considered and passed by the Australian Parliament to become legally binding. 

Learn more about the:


The Australian Government will continue to work with government agencies, state and territory governments, interest groups and academia to:

  • inform our negotiating positions for the new pandemic agreement
  • ensure they align with Australia’s priorities.

Between 7 August and 24 September 2023, in partnership with DFAT, we invited the Australian community and key stakeholders to provide their views on:

  • what they wanted to see in the new pandemic agreement
  • amended IHR to inform Australia’s engagement in negotiations.

For more information, see the report containing a summary of the key themes of the submissions received.

Key dates

These new reforms are underway. To date, key milestones include:

  • December 2021 – the WHO established the INB
  • February 2022 – first meeting of the INB
  • November 2022 – first meeting of the WGIHR
  • January 2023 – WGIHR Review Committee Report published
  • May 2024 – 77th World Health Assembly adopted the targeted changes to the IHR and agreed a path forward to finalise negotiations on the pandemic agreement by the 78th World Health Assembly in May 2025, or earlier if possible in 2024. 

Learn more about international health and reforms

Date last updated:

Help us improve

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.