Fri, May 18, 2012 - Page 1 News List

US questions WHO’s name for Taiwan

WHO?A US State Department report voiced concern over Taiwan’s designation and barriers to Taiwanese efforts to join technical activities and consultations

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA, Taipei and Washington

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Twu Shiing-jer, right, accompanied by Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia, speaks during a press conference at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, announcing their intention to attend next week’s WHA meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to represent Taiwan’s interests.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

The US Department of State has expressed concern about the WHO’s apparent lack of transparency in deciding Taiwan’s designation in the world health body.

The department said in a recent report to the US Congress that the Geneva-based organization did not hold discussions with member countries before deciding to refer to Taiwan as a “province of China” in its internal documents.

The report was referring to a letter from Anne Marie Worning, executive director of the office of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), sent in September last year, that asked its recipients to refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, province of China” instead of “Chinese Taipei.”

Taiwan was admitted to the World Health Assembly (WHA) — the WHO’s decisionmaking arm — as an observer in 2009 under the name “Chinese Taipei” and has lodged a strongly worded letter of protest to the WHO over the issue of the unilateral change in nomenclature.

The State Department said it has pushed the WHO Secretariat to follow the WHA model in resolving the Taiwan name dispute. The use of “Chinese Taipei” as the designation for Taiwan follows a model adopted by the WTO, in which Taiwan uses a title that is acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the report said.

The report also voiced concern about the WHO’s many restrictions on Taiwan’s efforts to take part in various WHO-sponsored technical activities and consultations.

Citing data provided by Taiwanese authorities, the report said Taipei applied to take part in 21 WHO working panels and technical activities last year, of which eight were approved, nine were rejected and four received no response.

Although Taiwan has offered on many occasions to contribute to WHO-organized health promotion programs around the world, it has often been denied access to those projects, the report said. For instance, Taiwan offered to provide US$5 million for a vaccination program during an outbreak of a new strain of H1N1 influenza, but the WHO turned down the offer because it would not accept Taiwan’s payment terms.

Saying that Taiwan has received a great deal of unfair or unequal treatment from the WHO in recent years, the report added that the only progress has been the WHO’s consent to Taiwan’s attendance as an observer at the annual WHA from 2009 to last year.

The report said US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius met with her Taiwanese counterpart, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達), on the sidelines of last year’s WHA, during which they discussed a broad range of health-related topics and explored feasible cooperative initiatives under the current framework.

Under its “one China” policy, the report said, the US does not support Taiwan’s admission to international organizations that require statehood as a requirement for membership, including the UN and its special agencies like the WHO.

However, the report stressed that the US fully supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA and other international organizations that do not require statehood.

It added that Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer should be normalized by allowing it to take part in more activities, including joining the International Food Safety Authorities Network.

According to a paper provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, the State Department said in the report that “the unresolved issue of nomenclature has severely hampered efforts to involve Taiwan further in the effective implementation of IHRs [International Health Regulations].”

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