Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Public must follow world affairs

By Chiang Kuan-yu 姜冠宇

During this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) last month, a non-governmental team organized an exhibition called “Hospital Without Borders” to showcase Taiwan’s public health achievements at a venue near the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

I delivered speeches in New York City, promoted the exhibition and guided visitors inside the exhibition in Geneva, and watched from the public gallery the discussion over proposals to invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA.

Drawing key lessons from these experiences could help Taiwanese understand how to ensure Taiwan’s participation in formal international organizations and upgrade the nation’s international status.

It would also emphasize the need for a change in public attitude toward international affairs, which would greatly benefit Taiwan and make it more widely known and recognized by other nations.

First, Taiwanese should more actively promote and participate in international non-governmental exchanges. If they want other nations to talk about Taiwan, they must first introduce themselves.

The “Hospital Without Borders” exhibition attracted quite a few foreign opinion leaders and intellectuals, as well as many international experts attending the WHA who can influence people around them by highlighting Taiwan and discussing it.

In contrast to traditional health diplomacy, which only provides medical resources in unequal measures, the use of exhibitions, public events and other campaigns to attract international opinion leaders is the best and most effective way to allow the younger generation to showcase their creativity and interdisciplinary capacity.

Second, participating in and establishing international non-governmental organizations with friends from other nations could provide an opportunity to apply for inclusion in the list of organizations qualified to participate in formal international conferences.

This would boost the chances of exerting pressure on some major international organizations and help the enhancement of Taiwan’s status.

In events where Taiwanese political organizations and government officials tend to be suppressed, people holding a professional title, or people who serve as administrative staff in non-profit organizations might face fewer challenges when applying to participate in meetings held by formal international organizations.

Third, public opinion should try to make a difference on an everyday basis. The issue of Taiwan’s status relies largely on the support of overseas Taiwanese, who persistently make an effort in lobbying foreign governments on Taiwan’s behalf, cultivating local grassroots political figures and helping them be elected to office in their country.

However, the Taiwanese public tend to be influenced by local news and political disputes and it lacks direction.

To influence international organizations, public opinion should concentrate its efforts months in advance. Once an international conference begins, it is already too late, as many things have already been discussed long before.

Fourth, Taiwan must maintain its professional standards and adopt a proactive attitude toward international humanitarian obligations.

Admittedly, international realities play a role in international relations, but it is worth noting that each official international organization, regardless of its nature, must acknowledge that its operations must be based on its original pledges of integrity and friendly cooperation lest it lose its legitimacy.

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