Taiwan's Efforts Merit Inclusion In World Health Assembly After Beijing-Led Ousting

| MAY 19, 2017 | 5:41 PM

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Taiwanese President-Elect Tsai Ing-wen Inauguration In Taipei

Ashley Pon/Getty Images

When the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), meets later this month in Geneva to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing the international public health community, representatives of Taiwan will be unable to attend as they did in the previous eight years, owing to WHO's bowing to political pressure from Beijing.

This decision is unfair to Taiwan and creates a potential gap in the world health system. Disease knows no boundary and the fight to prevent the spread of disease brooks no absence. Countries all over the world agree that political conditions ought not to be prioritized over the basic right to health. This is also the gold standard under which our government strives to improve the well-being of the 23 million men and women.

Health is a human right and every life matters. The WHO was created to advocate for the health and welfare of every person in the world. The people of Taiwan are entitled to participate in international health-related events and activities.

Taiwan has participated in WHA meetings as an observer since 2009. The fact that we were not invited to take part this year is particularly troubling, given our expertise and achievements in global health matters.

Global health can only be safeguarded through comprehensive collaboration among countries and institutions. Taiwan has a proven record of outstanding contributions to public health, disease prevention, as well as heath partnerships it has formed with other countries, including the United States. Taiwan recently convened a special four-day public health workshop in Taipei focusing on ways to fight mosquito-borne infectious diseases.

We have also stepped up our international humanitarian efforts, investing more than $6 billion in recent years in medical and humanitarian assistance, which has benefited millions of people in more than 80 countries.

There has been broad support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA from the United States, Canada, Japan, European countries and international health organizations. We are grateful for the long-standing support of our friends, including members of the U.S. Congress who have advocated our inclusion in this year’s WHA.

Inviting Taiwan to the WHA conforms to the WHO Constitution and universal values of human rights. It would enable Taiwan to further contribute to the concerted efforts that the WHO and all nations are making to achieve Goal 3 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Going forward, Taiwan will continue to fulfill its obligations and commitments to aid global health efforts. Measures to exclude Taiwan or suppress its participation in the WHA, when they are the result of political pressure, violate WHO’s  Constitution. We are concerned that it will have a detrimental effect on international health efforts and it leaves the distinct impression that politics prevails over global health.

We look for the WHO and related parties to recognize the justice and importance of Taiwan's participation in the WHA so that there is no gap in the disease prevention network, and that together, all might work for the advancement of human health worldwide.

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