Can legal mechanisms curb antimicrobial resistance?

Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation hosted a two-day writers’ workshop to facilitate action towards an international legal mechanism on antimicrobial resistance. The meeting also served as a peer-review process for authors contributing to a journal series that will be published shortly.

The risks of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are becoming increasingly clear. Recent reports suggest that by 2050, absent effective action, AMR will be responsible for 50 million deaths annually, compared to the 8.2 million deaths caused by cancer in 2012. And, by 2050, AMR will cost the world economy $100.2 trillion in total GDP loss unless we act decisively.

Political mobilisation on this issue has never been higher and policymakers have begun to ask for concrete steps that can be taken at the global level, including international legal mechanisms.

Global policies are needed for three key policy areas relating to AMR:

  1. access (ensuring that antimicrobials are available to every patient when needed);
  2. conservation (including all efforts that reduce the need for antimicrobials); and
  3. innovation (creating new vaccines and therapies against resistant infections)

These policies have been pursued to varying degrees at national levels for many years, but now is the time to address them globally.

Global action is needed because:

• Resistance respects no borders, national solutions can slow but cannot stop resistance;
• Antimicrobial effectiveness is a global common pool resource that requires management at a global level; and
• Antimicrobial innovation is a global endeavor.

While there is no shortage of reports on antimicrobial resistance, we lack a global architecture for what happens next. At this time we require cutting edge analysis on the tools available to forge global collective action on AMR, and since political timetables are so short and progress is being made so quickly on several fronts, analysis needs to be expedited. To this end, this workshop helped to bring together a series of analytic work that will be published shortly, addressing a range of the initial questions that will be asked by states and needed by civil society in pushing forward an international AMR legal mechanism. These include questions about the case for international legal action, core content of a possible legal mechanism, and strategic issues with which proponents need to grapple at an early stage.