Australia’s International Health Obligations

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) are designed to prevent the international spread of infectious diseases while avoiding interference with international traffic and trade. As a Member State of the World Health Organization (WHO), Australia is obliged to comply with the IHR.

Page last updated: 13 December 2018

What are the International Health Regulations (2005)?

The IHR are an international legal instrument that is binding on 196 countries across the globe, including all Member States of the WHO. Their aim is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.

The IHR, which entered into force on 15 June 2007, require countries to report certain disease outbreaks and public health events to the WHO. Building on the unique experience of the WHO in global disease surveillance, alert and response, the IHR define the rights and obligations of countries to report public health events, and establish a number of procedures that the WHO must follow in its work to uphold global public health security.

What does the IHR mean for Australia?

The IHR establishes a minimum standard for public health prevention, preparedness and response. These standards include activities and functions such as vector control, ship sanitation, chemicals, and points of entry.

Australia has incorporated key IHR standards into domestic law, including at the national level through the Biosecurity Act 2015 and the National Health Security Act 2007.

Each year, Australia reports its compliance with the IHR to the WHO. In 2017, Australia conducted a Joint External Evaluation of IHR implementation and subsequently developed a National Action Plan for Health Security to guide the implementation of recommendations from the JEE. More information about Australia’s JEE is available on the department's website.

Where can I find out more information about the IHR?

More information about the IHR, including a PDF copy of the IHR, is available on the WHO website