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

Sara E. Davies, Jeremy Youde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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 (US)
Pages (from-to)133-151
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sara E. Davies is a Senior Research Fellow, Human Protection Hub, Griffith Asia Institute and Centre of Governance and Public Policy. Sara is also Program Director of the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities projects funded by the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and AusAID. Sara was awarded an ARC Post-doctoral Fellow and Chief Investigator of an ARC Discovery grant titled ‘Containing H5N1: the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) and East Asian states’, and author of two books, Global Politics of Health (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010) and Legitimising Rejection: International Refugee Law in South East Asia (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers).


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


Dive into the research topics of 'The IHR (2005), disease surveillance, and the individual in global health politics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this