Health Security

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adverse events experienced by patients in the course of healthcare are among the top ten causes of illness and death worldwide. These are known as “adverse events”. Patient safety is primarily about preventing such adverse events and their consequences. Patient safety is a central issue in global public health, fundamental to strengthening health systems and providing high quality healthcare. Switzerland is also focusing on this issue.

Global pandemic preparedness and response

Since the beginning of 2020, efforts have focused on management of the Covid-19 crisis. International cooperation was and remains crucial for the management of the Covid-19 pandemic at the global and regional level, and for the protection of public health in Switzerland. Bilateral contacts with other – particularly neighbouring – countries were intensified. In addition – thanks to the provision of ad hoc access to various platforms – there was close collaboration with the EU during the crisis.
Participation in the relevant international organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), was also stepped up. In view of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, WHO member states have agreed to take multilateral measures to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. It is now essential to build on and consolidate the experience acquired during the crisis. To this end, Switzerland is also playing an active role in the international follow-up processes – for example, within the WHO framework, the process of amending the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the development by an Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) of a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. For more information, see the INB website.

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR)

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) govern international cooperation to control any events (natural, deliberate or accidental) which pose a threat to public health (infectious diseases, biological or chemical agents, ionising radiation). They also provide a regulatory framework for the WHO to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). One of the main objectives of the IHR is to combat the global spread of infectious diseases without unnecessarily restricting the free movement of persons and goods.

Global entry-into-effect and adoption in Switzerland

The IHR in their revised edition of 2005 came into force at international level on 15 June 2007. The Swiss Federal Council approved the regulations without any reservations, and designated the FOPH’s Communicable Diseases Division as Switzerland’s focal point. The revised Epidemics Act has incorporated the IHR (2005) since 2016, and governs their application in Switzerland.

Amendments to the IHR

Switzerland is playing an active part in the discussions and negotiations on the amendments to the IHR (2005). More than 300 proposed amendments have been submitted by States Parties with a view to filling any regulatory gaps and strengthening their provisions.

The Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005)

The Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (WGIHR), which is dedicated to the amendment process of the IHR (2005), is composed of representatives from the 196 IHR States Parties. Negotiations are currently scheduled to run until May 2024. Switzerland’s active participation in such negotiations as a State Party is of key importance if the country is to represent its interests therein in a duly targeted manner.

As soon as an amended version of the IHR has been devised by the WGIHR, this will be published on the FOPH website. All the official documents relating to this process are available on the WHO website.

Switzerland’s position

Since the current negotiations are not intended to produce a full revision of the IHR but are instead focused on targeted amendments to the same, Switzerland holds the view – and represents this during the negotiations – that it is essential that the scope and the purpose of the IHR remain unchanged.

For Switzerland, the references in the IHR to human rights and fundamental freedoms are crucial and must be retained. These form the basis of our society, and were one of the key achievements of the 2005 revision.

Switzerland also attaches particular importance to the rapid and reliable exchange of information, including information on pathogen samples and genetic sequencing data (GSD). This is a key and, from Switzerland’s perspective, non-negotiable element for surveillance and early intervention. Switzerland is further opposed to the idea of attaching any conditions to the exchanges of epidemiological data.

Switzerland will only determine whether it agrees with the results of the present IHR amendment process once the negotiations have been concluded and the final amended document has been compiled. Switzerland will continue to have sovereignty over its own health policy and over the measures required in the event of a PHEIC, as well as in the event of a pandemic.

Antimicrobial resistance: a global health challenge

Throughout the world, viruses and bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antimicrobial treatments. Switzerland is actively involved in international efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance.


Antimicrobial resistance is defined by the WHO as the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial medicine to which it was previously sensitive. This resistance arises from the ability of certain viruses or bacteria to withstand attack by antivirals or antibiotics. Resistance develops when a microorganism mutates or acquires a resistance gene.

Antimicrobial resistance can be observed worldwide. As this problem is becoming increasingly serious, it represents one of the greatest global health challenges. In 2019, an estimated 1.2 million people died from infections with resistant pathogens, outnumbering deaths from malaria and HIV. This trend is accelerating as a result of excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans and livestock, poor-quality drugs, inadequate laboratory capacity, lack of surveillance and deficiencies in the regulation of antibiotic use.

Global action plan and ongoing international efforts

The global action plan jointly developed by the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and civil society includes five objectives:

  • to improve public awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  • to strengthen the knowledge and evidence base through surveillance and research;
  • to reduce the incidence of infection through effective sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention measures;
  • to optimise the use of antimicrobial medicines in human and animal health; and
  • to increase investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

Switzerland supported the adoption of the global action plan at the World Health Assembly in May 2015. As a follow-up at the national level, the Swiss Strategy on Antibiotic Resistance (StAR) was adopted in November 2015. In 2023, StAR is to be updated and an action plan is also to be developed.

The global Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the impact which infectious diseases can have on human health and economic development. Efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance thus represent a key element of pandemic preparedness and response.

In November 2022, the Third High-Level Ministerial Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance was held in Oman, with the Muscat Ministerial Manifesto on AMR being adopted. The aim of this event was to pave the way for the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AMR, which is to be held in New York in 2024.

Link: Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance

Switzerland’s efforts

With the aim of promoting research and development of new antibiotics at the international level, Switzerland is supporting the Geneva-based Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP).

In 2018, Switzerland also joined the Global AMR R&D Hub, a global knowledge centre for antimicrobial resistance research and development which aims to enhance international collaboration and coordination.

As a contributor to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) – an initiative launched by the US in 2014 (2022 GHSA Ministerial Meeting in Seoul) – Switzerland has supported from the outset the AMR Action Package, which includes the sharing of best practice in hygiene and infection prevention measures. In this context, it published a comparative study of selected national AMR strategies, with the aim of defining best practices.

Global Health for Peace Initiative (GHPI)

The Global Health for Peace Initiative (GHPI), formerly the Health for Peace Initiative, was launched in November 2019 with active support from the Sultanate of Oman and Switzerland following a multilateral consultation in Geneva attended by more than 50 representatives from 24 countries.

The GHPI global initiative aims to strengthen and operationalize the link between health, social cohesion and peace. In doing so, it focuses on the unique role that public health programs can play in bringing diverse groups together and building trust. It considers various components of peace, including political peace and social cohesion at the community level. The GHPI aspires to contribute to greater resilience and trust at the community level and between populations and governments.

The GHPI is another WHO contribution to the humanitarian-development-peace nexus by strengthening the key role of health in contributing to peace and sustainable development through universal health coverage and the reconstruction and strengthening of inclusive health systems.

The GHPI approach is relevant to both emergencies and health system strengthening programs and supports the promotion of cross-cutting principles such as equity, inclusivity, participation, and localization.

In May 2022, the initiative was successfully elevated to the global level through the adoption of a consensus resolution at the 75th World Health Assembly.

Switzerland supports the important role of the World Health Organization. WHO stands for the inclusiveness and legitimacy of a much-needed multilateral solution to global health problems and is thus ideally suited to lead the Global Health for Peace initiative.

In a spirit of cooperation, solidarity, and strong multilateralism, Switzerland will continue to advocate health for peace.

Last modification 21.11.2023

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