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 health and wellbeing for all people worldwide.

Global health reforms aim to:

  • strengthen international responses to pandemics
  • improve global health.

Taking part in these reforms helps protect Australia’s wellbeing.

Changes to International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations help protect the health of the global community. They help ensure timely responses to health emergencies that could impact countries, including Australia.

Updating the regulations to strengthen the rights and obligations it sets out for members will help ensure that future outbreaks are detected and responded to more quickly.

The WHO amended the regulations in May 2022 (PDF, 280KB) to reduce the timeframe for future changes to the regulations from 24 months to 12 months. The amendment comes into effect for member states, including Australia, from May 2024. The World Health Assembly will also consider and negotiate adopting other proposed changes in 2024.

A new international agreement on pandemic prevention and response

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the WHO to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) in December 2021. Its role is to draft and negotiate a new international agreement or treaty on pandemic preparedness and response. Australia is actively involved in the INB.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response recommended the development of this new instrument.

Australia’s goals and priorities

Australia’s involvement in these reforms will:

  • strengthen the international community’s efforts towards future pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
  • allow us to pursue international health priorities while protecting domestic interests and sovereign rights
  • protect the Australian community’s health and wellbeing against the threat of future pandemics.

We want to make sure that global health reforms:

  • ensure equitable and timely access to health emergency countermeasures, such as vaccines
  • reduce the risk of future zoonotic disease transmission
  • enhance global and national prevention, preparedness, and response capacities
  • build an independent and authoritative WHO.

Any new instrument that results from these reforms needs to:

  • be flexible
  • not duplicate existing functions
  • add value
  • have legal authority.

Who we work with

To achieve these goals we are working with:

  • other Australian Government agencies
  • states and territories
  • the Australian public
  • the international community
  • multilateral groups and organisations including the
    • WHO – through which the INB is considering a new international agreement
    • G20.

Have your say

The INB hold public hearings on the new instrument that anyone can access.

Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will consult on any proposed international instrument. Stakeholders and members of the public will have the opportunity to make submissions at the relevant time.

Status

These new reforms are underway. Key milestones include:

  • December 2021 – the WHO established the INB
  • February 2022 – first meeting of the INB
  • May 2023 – INB to submit a progress report on the development of the new instrument to 76th World Health Assembly
  • 2024 – the INB to provide the final instrument to the 77th World Health Assembly for consideration.

Impacts on domestic Australian law

Once the new instrument has been finalised, the Australian Government will make a decision on whether to agree to it.

Changes to the International Health Regulations may create new international legal obligations for Australia. Signing a new international agreement or treaty doesn’t automatically change our laws – only parliament can change our laws.

Learn more about the:

Learn more about international health and reforms

Find more information about:

Contact

Last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

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