Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Let's be a hub for NGO events: Chen

LOBBY EFFORT The government said it was making progress in linking up with NGOs, but activists were more interested in why funds are so hard to come by

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government hopes Taiwan will acquire observer status at the World Health Organization within two years, and will do its best to turn the country into a leading meeting place for international non-governmental organizations (NGO), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

Local activists were less glowing in their assessment of the government's performance, however, saying that an appropriate level of funding was not being directed to the most capable NGOs.

Responding to questions about the participation of young people in international organizations during his meeting with more than 130 university students yesterday, Chen said the government had increased the number of programs helping young people to connect with the international community through NGOs.

He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Youth Commission had paved roads for young people. As a result of this commitment, he said, the 2004 APEC International Youth Camp would be held in Taipei in early August.

"It's necessary for the rest of the world to know that young Taiwanese are making progress," Chen said.

Chen said that the government had spared no effort to lobby for internship opportunities at NGOs for young people to develop skills at an international level.

Taking the Democratic Pacific Union initiated by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) as an example, Chen said the government had made an effort to turn Taiwan into a meeting place of choice for NGOs.

"In addition, we will do our best to help Taiwan acquire observer status at the World Health Organization within two years," Chen said.

Seasoned NGO activists, however, told the Taipei Times that strategies adopted by the government in approaching the international community through unofficial channels needed to be heavily adjusted with regard to the training of professionals and strengthening organizational skills.

The activists argued that the point of the exercise was not merely "having Taiwan seen or heard by the outside world."

"The point is what Taiwanese NGOs can contribute to their counterparts through international participation," said Lin Tze-luen (林子倫), one of the founders of the US-based Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN).

TEAN, which is mainly composed of Taiwanese students studying in the US, strives to increase Taiwan's involvement in international efforts relating to environmental issues.

Working with the US-based Earth Island Institute, TEAN helped a number of Taiwanese environmental NGOs to report on local developments during a six-day World Sustainability Hearing, an event held parallel to the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August, 2002.

Eric Liou (劉銘龍), secretary-general of the Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, said the government was reluctant to share financial resources with NGOs in certain fields.

Citing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an example, Liou said government funding for delegates wishing to participate in annual meetings had been monopolized by the government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI).

Since 1995, the government has participated in the annual meetings as an observer under the umbrella of ITRI.

"In the past, the government did not spend the right amount of money on the right NGOs, which do things more creatively than ITRI," Liou said.

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