Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 1 News List

WHA agenda does not include Taiwan

BLEAK OUTLOOK Taiwan's bid for observer status in the World Health Organization took a hit when the EU decided voted against the application at the group's assembly

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN GENEVA

Despite the recent setback brought about by the EU's decision to vote against Taiwan's bid to enter the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer, Department of Health (DOH) head Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) confirmed yesterday that Taiwan would not change its original strategy of calling for a vote by the group's general assembly.

"Calling for a vote will allow more people to think about Taiwan's application," he said.

Chen said that despite having met with high-level health officials in the Czech Republic and Germany, both nations had stated that they would follow the EU decision to vote against Taiwan's application.

The agenda of the World Health Assembly (WHA), established in January by the WHO's executive board, is slated to be reconfirmed by the General Committee tomorrow.

While it is anticipated that Taiwan's bid will not be added to the assembly's agenda during the committee meeting, Taiwan's bid may still be discussed and possibly voted on if brought up by a voting member. The general assembly, however, would have to first vote as to whether to change the agenda to include the issue of Taiwan's bid for observer status.

Thompson meeting

Chen said that he would be meeting with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson this afternoon.

The meeting comes after a decision by American officials that the US would not be willing to call for a vote to add Taiwan's application to the agenda.

As to what the two plan to specifically discuss, Chen said that it would "depend on the mood of the conversation."

"We've interacted well with Thompson in the past, and the experience has allowed both countries to understand that health cooperation is more important than the cross-strait relationship," Chen said.

He said that Taiwan has always cooperated with WHO initiatives. He also said that tomorrow, Taiwan will donate NT$1 million to the Global Fund which works to fight AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.

In addition, the Executive Yuan had already passed a bill to enact the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a WHO initiative aimed towards eradicating smoking-related diseases, he said.

Helpful friends

Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), director-general of the Taipei Cultural and Economic mission in Geneva, said that 12 of Taiwan's diplomatic allies have already presented Taiwan's application to the WHA's General Committee, which is scheduled to meet tomorrow.

Representatives from several non-governmental organizations have begun to arrive in Geneva to attend the WHA, and some will show support for Taiwan's bid to gain observer status in the world health body.

In addition, half page advertisements asking readers "WHO cares?" have been placed in Tribune de Geneve, Switzerland's largest French-language newspaper, by Taiwan's Government Information Office, which is under the Executive Yuan.

The advertisements feature the Chinese character for love in white against a solid red background. The ads will appear in the newspaper for three days.

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