Towards an International Treaty on Antimicrobial Resistance

32 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2016 Last revised: 31 Oct 2017

See all articles by Steven Hoffman

Steven Hoffman

York University; Harvard University

Asha Behdinan

University of Toronto - Department of Medicine

Date Written: February 16, 2016


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a transnational and multi-sectoral issue that requires global collective action, since individual states cannot fully address the threat that migrating “superbugs” pose to their citizens. Understanding the underlying global market and governance failures that prevent collective action makes it clear that an international legal response is needed to tackle this challenge. An international AMR treaty could promote access, conservation and innovation for antimicrobials by designating universally appropriate use standards, mobilizing financial resources, coordinating national responses, and setting surveillance expectations. This article expands upon previous proposals for development of an AMR treaty as a mechanism for coordinating states to safeguard sustainable access to effective antimicrobials. Specifically, this article identifies the functions needed to address AMR globally which individual countries cannot achieve on their own; the policies that would most benefit from international legalization as opposed to other approaches; as well as a roadmap to transform these functions and their implementation mechanisms into components of a treaty. We argue that an international treaty is the most suitable platform for achieving global collective action on AMR, with standards for responsible use and surveillance requiring enforced legalization (core policies); funding for access, infrastructure, and infection control measures benefitting from legalization (supportive policies); incentives for innovation being included to contribute to a grand bargain (incentivizing policies); and implementation mechanisms to ensure the treaty’s text has real-world effects.

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, Steven and Behdinan, Asha, Towards an International Treaty on Antimicrobial Resistance (February 16, 2016). Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 2, 2016. Available at SSRN:

Steven Hoffman (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

Global Strategy Lab
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
+1-416-736-2100 ext 33364 (Phone)


Harvard University ( email )

Department of Global Health & Population
665 Huntington Avenue, Building 1, Room 1104
Boston, MA 02115
United States


Asha Behdinan

University of Toronto - Department of Medicine ( email )


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