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.”
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
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].”
“For instance, in the way Taiwan ports are listed under the heading of China and in delayed communications with experts from Taiwan due to some communications being routed through Beijing or China’s mission in Geneva,” the report said.
Deputy foreign ministry spokesperson Steve Shia (夏季昌) said the government finds it “unacceptable” that the WHO consults with any other party about Taiwan before contacting Taiwan.
However, Shia reiterated the government’s contention that Taiwan and the WHO have been communicating with each other “directly” over IHR-related matters.
“We have been able to access to the WHO directly. We have never contacted the WHO through Beijing or the Chinese mission in Geneva as the US report said,” Shia said.
It’s “probably true” that the WHO talks to China before it contacts Taiwan, which was what the US was opposed to, Shia said, adding: “We do not accept that either.”
Shia said Taiwan would continue to lodge protests with the WHO.
The ministry also thanked the US government for its support of Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer, Shia said.
The Department of Health received an invitation from Chan on April 5 to attend this year’s WHA as an observer.
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