Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Allies urge UN to promote WHO bid

LENDING A HAND As publications begin to call for Taiwan's entry into the body to help in the fight against SARS, 20 countries have penned a letter of support for the effort

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

Guards at the Taipei Railway Station urge two women to wear face masks yesterday to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The railway administration ordered all passengers to wear masks or have their temperatures taken, after an official in the Ministry of Transportation and Communications died from SARS over the weekend.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Over 20 diplomatic allies have written to Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan to urge him to back Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO) amid continued support by the foreign press.

In a letter entitled "Collaboration between WHO and Taiwan in the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), 21 countries' representatives at the UN have written a joint letter to urge Annan to support Taiwan's WHO bid.

"We call on the secretary general of the UN to use his good offices with the director-general of the World Health Organization to consider, as a matter of emergency, to extend an invitation to Taiwan to take part in the World Health Assembly as a Health Entity," according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Taipei Times.

The assembly is the WHO's top decision-making body and is scheduled to convene in Geneva starting on May 19.

At a time when SARS remains a serious issue, it's time for Taiwan and the WHO to work together in the fight against the disease, the letter said.

The note urged the WHO to "abide by its founding goal of providing health for all humankind and thus, include Taiwan into the Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network" so that Taiwan can share SARS-related information and experiences with other countries.

The letter said the flu-like disease "knows no political boundaries" nor "ideological dictates," and it is "regrettable" that WHO has turned its back against Taipei's WHO bid since 1997 out of political considerations.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said Taiwan's WHO bid stood a better chance this year than before in the wake of SARS outbreak although China's opposition to Taipei's bid remained the key obstacle.

China's power has dissuaded many countries to express their support for Taiwan's WHO bid, Chien said.

The Asian Wall Street Journal and the Nikkei Shinbun in their respective editorials yesterday urged the world to support Taiwan's bid.

"The US and Japan have supported Taiwan's past applications to join the WHO, but they have been blocked by France, Spain, Pakistan, Argentina and India, among others," the Journal's editorial entitled "Let Taiwan into the WHO" said.

"These countries' diplomats should be ashamed of playing Beijing's political game at the expense of the world's health. Because of them, the WHO hasn't lived up to its charter, which sets as its objective the attainment by all peoples of the world the highest possible level of health," the editorial said. "It's time to stop letting Beijing block that noble ideal."

The Nikkei Shinbun's editorial said it's time to put aside the political disputes to support Taiwan's bid to join the assembly as an observer.

Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat said the group has set June 28 as the tentative date for its health ministers to discuss SARS-related matters in Bangkok.

APEC trade ministers will meet in Bangkok on June 1 to discuss measures help counter the ongoing economic impact of SARS on the region, the APEC Secretariat said.

Taiwan as a member of APEC will dispatch pertinent ministers to attend the two meetings, a foreign ministry official said. APEC is the only intergovernmental meeting that Taiwan is able to attend to discuss SARS-related issues.

Meanwhile, the US on Tuesday warned Americans to consider postponing all non-essential travel to Taiwan because of the outbreak of SARS.

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