The IHR (2005), disease surveillance, and the individual in global health politics

Sara E. Davies, Jeremy Youde

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Since the revisions to the International Health Regulations (IHR) in 2005, much attention has turned to two concerns relating to infectious disease control. The first is how to assist states to strengthen their capacity to identify and verify public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC). The second is the question of how the World Health Organization (WHO) will operate its expanded mandate under the revised IHR. Very little attention has been paid to the potential individual power that has been afforded under the IHR revisions - primarily through the first inclusion of human rights principles into the instrument and the allowance for the WHO to receive non-state surveillance intelligence and informal reports of health emergencies. These inclusions mark the individual as a powerful actor, but also recognise the vulnerability of the individual to the whim of the state in outbreak response and containment. In this paper we examine why these changes to the IHR occurred and explore the consequence of expanding the sovereignty-as-responsibility concept to disease outbreak response. To this end our paper considers both the strengths and weaknesses of incorporating reports from non-official sources and including human rights principles in the IHR framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-151
Number of pages19
JournalThe International Journal of Human Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bio-surveillance
  • Human rights
  • International health regulations
  • World health organization

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