Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 2 News List

New leader for WHA delegation

VITAL TIME The government has been sending official delegations to Geneva since 1997, but SARS may prove to be the catalyst in this year's lobbying to join the WHO

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday appointed Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), the chairman of the government's SARS Advisory Committee as well as a vice chairman of the National Science Council, to lead the nation's delegation to the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting that opens Monday in Geneva.

Department of Health Director-General Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), who was traditionally the designated delegation leader, has been asked to stay home to lead the SARS-fighting team.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂), the highest-ranking foreign ministry official to attend the meeting, left for Geneva last night, while Chen Chien-jen is expected to leave for Geneva tomorrow.

Since Taiwan made an appeal for observer status to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1997, the government has been sending an official delegation to Geneva annually to promote its bid.

Meanwhile, officials yesterday urged the WHO to lift "quarantine" against Taiwan by giving a green light to Taipei's bid.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Health held a joint press conference yesterday to highlight the necessity for Taiwan to be included in the UN health agency from health perspectives.

Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO system could become a "loophole" in the global fight against SARS, the repercussions of which could be detrimental not only to Taiwan but to the rest of the world, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新).

Twu dubbed Taiwan as "an orphan" in the global fight against SARS since it took seven weeks after the first SARS case was reported in Taiwan for the WHO to dispatch two experts to help contain the outbreak.

"China blocked our WHO bid for political reasons, while disregarding the health of its own people and claiming it takes care of the health of the Taiwanese people. It's an absolute lie," Twu said.

Nine countries have written to WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland to request a proposal to discuss Taipei's bid to join the WHA as a "health authority" to be inserted as a supplementary item on the agenda.

These countries included Burkina Faso, Gambia, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Paraguay, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

David Lee (李大維), Taiwan's top representative in Brussels, said in a telephone interview that the EU member states have been declining to take the lead to speak in Taiwan's favor inside the WHA set-up, for fear of irritating China.

The European Parliament was scheduled to discuss a resolution supportive of Taipei's bid yesterday afternoon, while the EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom was to speak on the issue on behalf of the European Commission in the same setting, Lee said.

The non-binding resolution was expected to sail through the European assembly, officials predicted.

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