Tue, May 14, 2002 - Page 1 News List

No place for Taiwan on WHO agenda

POLITICS AND HEALTH Though the nation's bid to gain observer status as a ``health entity'' didn't make it past the world health body's steering committee, officials vowed to keep on fighting

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

Some of the hundreds of supporters who travelled to Switzerland from around the world raise a ``Taiwan for WHO'' banner outside the UN building in Geneva on Sunday to boost Taiwan's bid to become a WHO observer. Their efforts were to no avail, however, as Taiwan's proposal didn't make it onto the WHO agenda.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The WHO turned its back on Taiwan again yesterday as the steering committee of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's highest decision-making body, decided not to include Taipei's application as a WHA observer on the assembly agenda.

Despite the setback, Taiwanese officials vowed to continue the country's efforts in joining the WHO in order to enhance the health and welfare of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

"Taiwan will continue to go for the WHO bid," said Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), head of the Department of Health.

As the weeklong WHA meeting was opened formally in Geneva yesterday, the WHA's general committee held a closed-door meeting in the morning to discuss several issues, including whether to add the proposal to discuss Taipei's application for WHA observer status to the assembly's provisional agenda as a supplementary item.

The issue triggered extensive discussions during the meeting, insiders of the meeting said, during which six countries spoke in favor of Taiwan and 17 countries, as well as the EU, spoke in opposition.

Two EU nations, France and Spain, opposed the inclusion of the proposal on the assembly's agenda, whereas the US and Japan remained silent on the issue, sources said.

Spain said it did not support the inclusion of the proposal on the agenda and suggested that the second plenary meeting in the afternoon should arrange a two-to-two open debate on the issue, a remark termed by Sanchez Reyes, a member of the Nicaragua delegation attending the meeting, as "surprising."

France termed the proposal put forward by Taiwan's diplomatic allies as a "political issue" and thus opposed the including of the proposal on the agenda, Reyes told reporters and Taiwanese officials after the meeting.

On behalf of the EU, Spain later took the floor again in the proceedings saying the EU considered it was not "opportune to deal with the issue" because the case had already been "widely debated and discussed" at the WHO's Executive Board meeting in January, Reyes said.

A. C. Diallo, a member of the Senegal delegation attending the closed-door meeting, also briefed officials on details of the meeting.

Other major countries that voiced their opposition to the proposal included China, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Mexico, Nepal, Morocco and Zimbabwe, among others.

Six of Taiwan's allies, Senegal, Burkina Faso, San Tome and Principle, Panama, Honduras and Belize, spoke in favor of Taiwan, with a majority of the countries citing the exclusion of the 23 million people out of the WHO system as a stark challenge of the "health for all" principle underpinning the WHO constitution.

The chairman of the meeting, Lopez Beltran, the minister of health from El Salvador, decided at the end of the morning session not to include the issue on the assembly agenda.

The decision put forward by the general committee was later confirmed in the afternoon session of the plenary meeting in the assembly after an open debate on the issue. Malawi and Grenada spoke in favor of Taiwan, while China and Pakistan spoke against the case.

Yusuf M'wawa, Malawi health minister, voicing the African state's strong support for Taiwan, said Taiwan's application as "a health entity" to the WHA as an observer, was a "pragmatic solution."

C. M. Curwen, minister of Health and the Environment in Grenada, urged the assembly that Taipei's request to become a WHA observer "did not interfere with the `one-China' issue .... It is a matter of human rights" rather than a political issue.

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