Making Use of Existing International Legal Mechanisms to Manage the Global Antimicrobial Commons: Identifying Legal Hooks and Institutional Mandates
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an urgent threat to global public health and development. Mitigating this threat requires substantial short-term action on key AMR priorities. While international legal agreements are the strongest mechanism for ensuring collaboration among countries, negotiating new international agreements can be a slow process. In the second article in this special issue, we consider whether harnessing existing international legal agreements offers an opportunity to increase collective action on AMR goals in the short-term. We highlight ten AMR priorities and several strategies for achieving these goals using existing “legal hooks” that draw on elements of international environmental, trade and health laws governing related matters that could be used as they exist or revised to include AMR. We also consider the institutional mandates of international authorities to highlight areas where additional steps could be taken on AMR without constitutional changes. Overall, we identify 37 possible mechanisms to strengthen AMR governance using the International Health Regulations, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, and the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm conventions. Although we identify many shorter-term opportunities for addressing AMR using existing legal hooks, none of these options are capable of comprehensively addressing all global governance challenges related to AMR, such that they should be pursued simultaneously with longer-term approaches including a dedicated international legal agreement on AMR.
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