The Lancet  |  September 4, 2023

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Across multiple pandemics, global health governance institutions have struggled to secure the compliance of states with international legal and political commitments, ranging from data sharing to observing WHO guidance to sharing vaccines. In response, governments are negotiating a new pandemic treaty and revising the International Health Regulations. Achieving compliance remains challenging, but international relations and international law research in areas outside of health offers insights. This Health Policy analyses international relations research on the reasons why states comply with international law, even in the absence of sanctions. Drawing on human rights, trade, finance, tobacco, and environmental law, we categorise compliance mechanisms as police patrol, fire alarm, or community organiser models. We show that, to date, current and proposed global health law incorporates only a few of the mechanisms that have shown to be effective in other areas. We offer six specific, politically feasible mechanisms for new international agreements that, together, could create compliance pressures to shift state behaviour.

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