Tue, May 15, 2001 - Page 1 News List

WHO turns its back on Taiwan

POLITICS AND HEALTH Although the attempt to join the world body failed again, officials and NGOs say the solid support from Taiwan's allies was encouraging

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's attempt to become an observer at the World Health Organization (WHO) was thwarted yesterday as the WHO steering committee in Geneva decided not to include the issue in the assembly agenda.

But participants from Taiwan, both officials and non-officials, who were in Geneva, said they saw "progress" in Taiwan's WHO bid this year.

"The result was like the previous years in that the WHO assembly did not accept the proposal. But we saw progress in this year's development," Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), director-general of the Department of Health as well as leader of Taiwan's group in Geneva, told the Taipei Times.

"Forces in Taiwan and overseas, the government as well as the private sector, all joined as a team to work on the issue. Besides, many reports in local newspapers drew a positive picture," Lee said.

"Although the US did not voice its support for us in the formal meeting, we could feel that the US and Taiwan could cooperate positively in the future," Lee added.

The WHO's 54th annual assembly discussed yesterday a proposal submitted by seven countries that supported Taiwan's bid to become an observer and asked that the issue be put on this year's agenda. The proposal was tabled by seven of Taiwan's ally countries: Panama, Honduras, Commonwealth of Dominica, El Salvador, Senegal, San Tome and Palau.

In the morning session of the meeting, ten countries voiced their opposition to the proposal: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea, Mexico, Nepal, Congo, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Four countries that expressed their support for Taiwan were Honduras, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso and Dominica, sources said.

The chairman of the meeting Hong Sunhuot, the Cambodian health minister, decided at the end of the morning session not to include the issue on the assembly agenda, and the decision was confirmed in the afternoon session of the meeting yesterday, according to a foreign ministry press release.

But delegates from El Salvador and Swaziland voiced their support for Taiwan in the afternoon session. Victor Manuel Lagos Pizzati, representative of El Salvador, said the WHO should allow Taiwan as an observer because Taiwan's active participation in various bilateral and multilateral medical cooperation schemes over the past few decades has shown that Taiwan has the ability to realize the organization's objectives, the press release stated.

John Kunene, Swaziland's representative, refuted China's opposition to Taiwan's participation in WHO, saying Taiwan's status as a WHO observer did not involve the sovereignty dispute with China nor did it challenge China's existing status in the international organization, according to the press release.

Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉), office director of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan who was in Geneva for the WHO bid, indicated that there was some "progress" in Taiwan's WHO bid this year.

"The statements voiced by Taiwan's ally countries this year are the most convincing and delicate ones we have seen in the past four years," Lin told the Taipei Times.

"But of course we are disappointed and feel angry about China's opposition," Lin added.

Around 55 members of Taiwan-ese non-governmental organizations took part in this year's lobby in Geneva, including the National Medical Association of the Republic of China.

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