Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 8 News List

WHO role critical for nation to aid health

By Chen Lung-chu 陳隆志

The 57th World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting is due to begin tomorrow in Geneva. The WHA is the highest authority within the WHO, and any nation that can secure the support of over half the members of the WHA can join the WHO. Taiwan has been attempting to gain entry into the WHO since 1997 but success has evaded it as a result of Chinese diplomatic pressure.

The WHO's purpose is to ensure the basic human right of health for humanity, and the nation's request to join the organization is not merely the wish of the Taiwanese people but is also an appeal to humanitarianism.

Last year Taiwan stood isolated in its fight against the SARS epidemic, unable to call on the WHO for assistance. The WHO should allow the nation to take part in the international epidemic prevention system, so Taiwanese can receive protection.

The nation's attempt to join the WHO is fair, reasonable and legal. Leading up to this year's WHA meeting, members of the Medical Professionals Alliance (醫界聯盟) were joined by nurses and university students in a movement in Taiwan calling for other countries to support the application. Not only the US, but also organizations of global scale and of considerable importance, such as the International Council of Nurses, the World Medical Association and the International Pharmaceutical Federation, have announced their support. The government is also engaged in last-minute lobbying of major nations such as Japan and members of the EU.

Taiwan's chances of participating in the WHO increase every year. This year the government has again pursued observer status in the WHA in the capacity of a "health entity," citing four principles. These are that politics should not obstruct Taiwanese people's right to good health; that Taiwan is willing to share its public-health experience with the world; that the nation is willing to provide humanitarian aid to other countries; and that Taiwan is willing to participate in any project advocated by the WHO.

The concept of observer status as a health entity is only a transitional step, one which will lead to proper status in the future. Taiwan looks forward to the time when it can join forces with the international community and participate fully in WHO.

Being able to return something to the international community will not only be good for Taiwan, but will allow Taiwan to contribute to the world.

Chen Lung-chu is chairman of the New Century Foundation.


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