Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Inclusion in health regulations sought

CAMPAIGN Revisions to the global health body's regulations to include Taiwan would help the nation achieve observer status at the WHO, the foreign affairs ministry said

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will seek to be included in the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) when the UN body's Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) starts revising the regulations today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

The ministry believes the inclusion of the country in the IHR, a framework and network for containing global public health risks, will significantly boost its chances of entering the WHO as an observer.

The consideration of the revisions will continue until Nov. 12, according to the WHO.

"We started preparations for the IHR revision a long time ago. It's a very important step for us," ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

Crucial step

The IHR revision is viewed as a crucial step to achieve President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) promise to bring the nation into the WHO within two years. Chen made the vow after Taiwan failed in its eighth bid to join the body in May.

Since 1995, the WHO has been working to prepare a revision to the IHR, which addresses the changing and unpredictable problem of the international spread of disease through its network of members.

During the first half of this year, national governments and international bodies have carefully reviewed a WHO working paper that contains a first draft of proposed revisions.

The results of the review formed the basis of an amended draft that is to be put to the working group today.

At the working group, WHO member states will be asked to endorse a final draft to be presented to the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the highest governing body of the WHO -- next year for adoption.

`Not permitted'

Taiwan also put forth its proposal, comprising more than 20 pages, to be considered by the working group.

However, WHO spokesman Ian Simpson, in Geneva, told the Central News Agency that Taiwan will not be permitted to participate in the working group because it is not a WHO member.

Lu said the ministry has not given up hope of joining the working group meetings despite the WHO's rejection.

"We have asked our allies and some friendly countries to speak for us in the working group, calling on the WHO to pay attention to the Taiwan problem," Lu said.

The ministry has been lobbying other countries intensely to support the accommodation of Taiwan under the framework of the IHR, Lu said.

Modification

According to the Central News Agency, Taiwan aims to change the wording of Article 65 in the draft revision of the IHR, which regulates how states that are not members of the WHO may become parties to the IHR.

Taiwan is not qualified to be a party to the IHR because the UN does not recognize it as a state, the news agency quoted unnamed officials as saying.

The agency reported that Taiwan's ally Nicaragua, in its proposal to the WHO concerning the amendment of the IHR, suggested that any area that owns an independent health system be qualified to become a party to the regulations.

The IHR, modified once in 1973 and again in 1981, was originally intended to help monitor and control six serious infectious diseases: cholera, plague, yellow fever, smallpox, relapsing fever and typhus. Today, only cholera, plague and yellow fever are considered "notifiable diseases" to be monitored under the IHR.

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