IHR: National legislation

The International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) are aimed at helping the international community prevent and respond to a variety of acute public health threats that have the potential to cross borders and threaten health worldwide. The IHR require States Parties to put in place an appropriate legal framework to enable efficient and effective implementation.

National legislation encompasses a broad range of legal, administrative and other governmental instruments that may facilitate the implementation of the IHR by States Parties. These include:

  • legally binding instruments: constitutions, legislation, decrees, acts, orders, ordinances and regulations;
  • non-legally binding instruments: guidelines, standards, operating rules and procedures; and
  • other types of instruments that may not clearly belong to the previous categories: governmental protocols, resolutions and actions, and intersectoral, interdepartmental, interministerial or intergovernmental agreements.

Due to the comprehensive scope of the IHR and its all-hazard approach (focusing on all serious public health risks that may spread across international borders), national legislation may cover the following areas:

  • international traffic (travellers, transport and trade);
  • capacities specific to points of entry (ports, airports and ground crossings);
  • public health communications and assessments across relevant ministries, departments and levels;
  • National IHR Focal Points;
  • domestic and international communications and collaboration (for example reporting public health events to WHO and collaborating in assessment and response);
  • surveillance and response; and
  • emergency preparedness.

Analysing and potentially revising or adopting new legislation in this context can be a complex and challenging task. Since the IHR's entry into force in 2007, WHO has been supporting States Parties in their efforts to incorporate the IHR into national legislation and providing guidance concerning their practical implementation.