The success of the government's bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO) hinges on international politics despite the fact that the SARS outbreak has highlighted the dangers of excluding the country from the global health system, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said yesterday.
"SARS is a crisis in Taiwan, but it also serves as an opportunity for Taiwan," Chien said. "Taiwan should not be excluded from the WHO. The exclusion is not only a `black hole' in combating the disease but also disregards the basic human rights of the 23 million people in Taiwan."
Chien said Beijing's efforts to sink the government's WHO bid is still the key obstacle.
"Although I dubbed the present situation as an opportunity, we should not place all our hopes on this year's bid," he said. "International politics is still dictated in realistic terms. As to whether or not we will be able to penetrate Beijing's opposition is dependent on the efforts of our diplomats over the next week."
Taiwan has been trying to join the World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO's top decision-making body, as an observer since 1997.
The political drama surrounding Taipei's WHO bid this year is expected to unfold during the WHA meeting that starts in Geneva on Monday.
Chien also refuted an argument that said the recent dispatch of two WHO experts to Taiwan indicated that the UN health agency was looking out for the health of Taiwanese despite the country's exclusion from the organization.
"This [argument] has over-simplified the question," Chien said.
The key solution is to seek a feasible and perhaps institutionalized way to ensure the health and basic human rights of the 23 million people in Taiwan in the spirit of the WHO Constitution, he said.
Chien was speaking at the ceremony donation of 12,000 FFP2 masks to the ministry from Patrick Poon (潘燊昌), head of Greater China Region of ING Life Insurance.
Poon said that the delivery of the masks was aimed at helping the public and the government win the battle against SARS.
Also present at the ceremony was Mike Lee, vice president of cargo sales and marketing division of China Airlines, and Menno Goedhart, representative of the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office.
China Airlines helped transport the masks to Taipei free of charge, Lee said.
Goedhart said he's "happy and proud" that a Dutch firm, along with China Airlines, has signaled a gesture of solidarity with Taiwan at a time when the country is endeavoring to keep the disease under control.