Tue, May 21, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Foreign ministry thanks allies for support at WHA

Staff writer, with CNA, GENEVA, Switzerland

From left, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Tai-yuan, Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Luke Browne, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Geneva Director Wang Liang-yu toast yesterday at a reception in Geneva, Switzerland.

Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday expressed gratitude to 14 diplomatic allies who wrote letters to the WHO asking for Taiwan to be invited to the World Health Assembly (WHA), which opened yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Fourteen of the 17 nations that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan have written to ask that the issue of its exclusion from the WHA this year be placed on the agenda for discussion during the session, which is scheduled to run through Tuesday next week.

Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Vatican, which is attending the WHA as an observer, did not send letters.

Based on the 14 letters, a proposal, titled “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an Observer,” has been submitted to the WHO General Committee, which was expected to hold a meeting after yesterday’s formal opening of the WHA, the WHO said.

This is the third consecutive year that Taiwan has not been invited to attend the WHA as an observer, as it did from 2009 to 2016, due to obstruction by China.

However, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) is heading a delegation in Geneva that is taking part in bilateral talks with WHO members on the sidelines of the WHA.

During the two-on-two debates at this year’s WHA General Committee and plenary session, four of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies are expected to advocate for its inclusion.

The theme of this year’s WHA is “universal health coverage, leaving no one behind,” but the WHO is leaving Taiwan behind, Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton said on Sunday at a function hosted by Taiwan’s representative office in Geneva.

“My nation is proud to stand with Taiwan and call Taiwan a friend and encourage Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly,” Hamilton said.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment Luke Browne told the gathering that Taiwan could contribute more to global health efforts if it was allowed to attend the WHA.

“Taiwan not only could help, Taiwan is already helping many countries around the world,” Browne said, pointing to a banner that read “Taiwan Can Help.”

The foreign ministry said other allies are expected to express support in various ways for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA.

Asked about Guatemala and Nicaragua’s decision to not send letters, ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) told the Central News Agency that each ally is free to choose its own way of supporting Taiwan, for which the ministry has full respect and gratitude.

According to the ministry, the letters note that this is the third year Taiwan has not been invited to the WHA, which creates a gap in the global public health front.

In related news, German lawmaker Erwin Ruddel, chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee on Health, said during an interview on TV Berlin on Saturday that Taiwan should participate in the WHA.

Disease knows no borders, and Taiwan, with its excellent health system, should be invited to the WHA to share its experience, he said.

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