WHO pandemic treaty and International Health Regulations
The World Health Organization (WHO) is negotiating a new pandemic treaty and amendments to the International Health Regulations. The aim is to strengthen the international regulatory framework for preparing for pandemics and other health threats.
WHO’s role in global health security and the current international regulatory framework
Multilateral cooperation is essential for combating pandemics and other large-scale health emergencies, which, as a rule, know no borders and require joint action. Based on its mandate, the WHO plays a key role in this process as the leading and coordinating authority in responding to global health challenges. Under its Constitution, the WHO may also, upon request, assist its Member States in health emergencies.
The WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005) are the key international agreement in force and form the key foundation for international cooperation, covering measures for preparing for, and responding to, cross-border health threats. The purpose of the IHR is to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of diseases. Based on the IHR, the States Parties are committed to measures that strengthen the capacities of the states to prevent, detect and respond to health threats. The States Parties must also report threats that have been detected. Finland brought the IHR into force by an act and a decree (Finnish Treaty Series 50 and 51/2007, in Finnish).
Aim is to strengthen preparedness for pandemic threats
The WHO Member States have assessed that the international regulatory framework for preparing for pandemics and other health threats must be strengthened. At its special session in December 2021, the World Health Assembly decided to establish an intergovernmental negotiating body to prepare a treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The intergovernmental treaty negotiations began in February 2022. The aim of the future pandemic treaty is to further strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response internationally.
In parallel with the negotiations on the new pandemic treaty, the WHO Member States have been negotiating amendments to the IHR since November 2022, with the aim of strengthening the current IHR as necessary.
The negotiations on both the pandemic treaty and the amendments to the IHR take place between the WHO Member States. This means that Finland also participates in the negotiations. Finland participates in the negotiations as part of the European Union, which forms the common positions for the negotiations. Finland’s delegation for the negotiations includes representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. The delegation also consults other administrative branches and stakeholders. Parliament has been kept informed of the progress of both negotiations at their different stages, and Parliament takes part in forming Finland’s positions for the negotiations. In addition, discussion events have been arranged for stakeholders. The events have included participants from Amnesty International, the Finnish Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, for example. It is possible to follow the progress of the negotiations on the WHO's website.
Target timetable for adopting the treaty and IHR amendments is May 2024
The aim is to conclude the negotiations on the pandemic treaty and the IHR amendments so that they could be adopted at the World Health Assembly in May 2024. The World Health Assembly is comprised of all the WHO Member States. As a rule, the World Health Assembly makes its decisions by consensus. This means that all the Member States would have to approve the decision on both the pandemic treaty and the IHR amendments.
However, if the Assembly is unable to reach a decision in either case by consensus, the voting procedure under the WHO Constitution will apply. It is likely that the adoption of the pandemic treaty will require a two-thirds majority of the Members present at the World Health Assembly.
After the World Health Assembly has adopted the pandemic treaty and the amendments to the IHR, each WHO Member State will discuss and commit to them in accordance with its constitutional processes. In Finland, commitment to such international treaties requires not only a decision of the President of the Republic but also the consent of Parliament.
- Treaty on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response on the WHO's website
- Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations
- Europe communications submitted to Parliament (in Finnish)
- Union communications submitted to Parliament (in Finnish)
- News item 26 April 2023: Stakeholders were consulted about negotiations on WHO pandemic treaty
- News item 5 December 2022: Negotiations on future WHO pandemic treaty take place in Geneva this week
- News item 30 September 2022: Future WHO pandemic treaty discussed in Helsinki