International Health Regulations (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.

Last modification 29.05.2024

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