Sun, May 05, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chen makes a last push for WHO seat

POLITICS OF HEALTH With just eight days to go before the world health body meets, the president said that Taiwan wants to return the health-care favors it has received from the global community

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, center, joins hands with Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien, right, and the head of the health department, Lee Ming-liang, at a symposium to drum up support for Taiwan's bid to join the WHO yesterday.

PHOTO: LIAO RAY-SHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

As a member of the global village, Taiwan has every right to join the WHO to provide its 23 million people the best medical care and to give back to the world what Taiwan has received, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

"Taiwan realizes the true meaning of `healthcare without borders' after the devastating earthquake that rocked the island on Sept. 21, 1999," Chen said. "We've managed to get back on our feet again and are ready to give back to the world what the world has given us."

Chen made the remark during the opening ceremony of the "Strategy and Role Assignment of People's Mobilization to Join the WHO" symposium yesterday morning.

The one-day event, co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Health and 26 non-governmental organizations (NGO), drew about 500 people to the International Convention Center in Taipei.

Although it took Taiwan 12 years to join the WTO, Chen said that he expects it will not take as long to get accession to the WHO.

"I believe it won't take as long as 12 years to become a member of the global public-health body as long as the government and its people work hand in hand, braving difficulties and grasping every possible opportunity," he said.

Chen said that both the government and NGOs should emulate the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize winning NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres, to offer needy countries Taiwan's most advanced medical and public health know-how and resources.

"Because it not only saves lives but also builds friendship as well as upgrades Taiwan's international profile," Chen said.

Chen also expressed appreciation for the recent international support for Taiwan's bid to join the WHO.

"It's encouraging to see that the European Parliament passed a resolution on March 14 to call on the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the WHO's highest decision-making body -- to accept Taiwan in the capacity of an observer," Chen said. "The US Congress also passed an act on March 19 in support of Taiwan's accession to the WHA as an observer."

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eugene Chien (簡又新), said that yesterday's event marked the government's last-minute effort before the WHA is scheduled to convene on May 13.

"While there's still much room for improvement, we're thrilled to see some positive results since the government began its bid to gain observer status at the WHO in 1997," Chien said.

Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), head of health department, said that although it is highly likely that Taiwan will fail again in its bid to join the WHO this year, he is still optimistic in the long term.

"I hope to see our hard work eventually bear fruit in the near future," he said.

DPP Legislator Lai Ching-teh (賴清德), head of the Health, Environmental Protection and Social Welfare League -- the largest subgroup in the legislature -- said that the government should adjust its campaign strategy from politics to human rights.

"We have to let the international community understand how Taiwan will suffer if we cannot get access to the most immediate and advanced medical information and relief resources if such deadly diseases like the enterovirus and devastating disasters such as earthquake strike," he said.

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