An invitation has not been extended to Taiwan to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from Monday.
The WHO has officially announced that it has no plans to invite a Taiwanese delegation to attend the WHA, which gained international attention.
However, by refusing to allow Taiwan to participate in the meeting, the WHO has violated its own constitution, which stipulates that “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.”
For this reason, Taiwan should consider taking a different approach as it addresses the issue of participation in the WHO: It should carry out an evaluation to determine whether it could apply to become a member of the organization, or gain observer status, as a “health entity” and it should use the WHO constitution to help it convince the international community that it should be allowed to become a member of the organization.
While UN Resolution 2758 — passed by the UN General Assembly in 1971 — and WHA Resolution 25.1 — passed by the 25th WHA in 1972 — stipulate that representatives of the government of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) should be expelled from the UN and the WHO respectively, neither make any mention of Taiwan.
In other words, the WHO has never issued a resolution to the effect that Taiwan should not be allowed to join the organization.
Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志), an authority on international law, has said that Taiwan should take the same approach to the WHO as it did to gain membership in APEC — where it has gained access as an “economic entity” — and the WTO, where it has joined as the “Separate Customs Territory of Taipei, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” and try to obtain WHO access by seeking recognition from the international community as a “health entity.”
APEC accepted Taiwan’s application for membership as an “economic entity” because it recognized that doing so is not only in line with its mission, but that it can also help the organization achieve its goal of increasing cooperation on economic and trade issues between its 21 member states.
As an APEC member, Taiwan can help the organization fight protectionism and solve trade and investment disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.
The same legal reasoning applies to the WHO, which would greatly benefit from having Taiwan as one of its members.
Allowing the nation to participate in the WHA is not only in line with the WHO constitution — which states that every person has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health — but it would also help control diseases, improve the quality of healthcare and health conditions in other member nations.
From the standpoint of international law, as well as the WHO constitution, Taiwan should be eligible to attend the WHA as a “health entity.”
The government and public must continue to demand that the WHO stop isolating Taiwan from the global health network and allow the nation to take part in its assembly.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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