Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's WHO bid not simply a failure

By Wu Shuh-min吳樹民

Taiwan's bid to enter the World Health Organization (WHO) failed for the ninth straight time during the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting last month. Before the meeting, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) said that facilitating Taiwan's participation in the WHO was a priority, so the media and the public put their hopes in China's "goodwill." However, Beijing only renewed its oppression of Taiwan's space to take part in international organizations, and there was no room for compromise.

In this year's meeting, China changed its harsh tone, and adopted a more sophisticated method to block Taiwan's participation. During the meeting, Beijing and the WHO Secretariat signed a memorandum of understanding without Taipei's approval, painting Taiwan's bid as a "domestic" Chinese issue in order to create the false impression in the international community that Taiwan is a part of China.

We can see from these tricks that China has long excluded Taiwan from the WHO due to political factors, and it can no longer justify itself. Besides, it is necessary for Beijing to remedy its international image after the resentment caused by the "Anti-Secession" Law.

In this year's meeting, China used the statements of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) for propaganda purposes, in response to criticism from our diplomatic allies.

Meanwhile, since the WHO was also attempting to launch the International Health Regulations (IHR), our diplomatic and health agencies had to fight on two different fronts. They finally paved the way for Taiwan to take part in the IHR -- a positive result.

The WHO Constitution clearly states, "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition." But Taiwan, after so much effort, is still unable to join the organization due to China's interference.

Although the inclusion of the principle of universal application in the IHR has opened a window of opportunity for Taiwan's participation, will it really enable the country to be involved in international health affairs and have regular contact with the WHO? We should still be cautious about irrational Chinese political interference.

It has been nine years since Taiwan launched its first bid. The legitimacy of its bid has increased after experiencing both an enterovirus epidemic and SARS. But it is undeniable that, apart from China's vicious oppression, the lack of a consensus inside Taiwan is also one of the obstacles affecting our bid.

Still, since Taiwan needs to gain support from foreign countries during this process, our diplomats have a great opportunity to develop relationships with their foreign counterparts, rather than focusing only on unilateral relationships with the US and Japan. The Department of Health (DOH) also repeatedly sent its officials to observe at WHO-related committees, and it now has a better understanding of international health cooperation.

The experience of jointly pushing for participation in the WHO has allowed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the DOH to work more closely together. The public has also realized that Taiwan should not exclude itself from the global village, and is willing to offer more medical aid to developing countries. In the future, health, democracy and business diplomacy will become the three major pillars of Taiwan's international relations.

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