Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Officials discover resistance to IHR bid in Geneva

DISEASE CONTROL Despite the obstacles to inclusion in the WHO's International Health Regulations, Nicaragua and the US have come out in support of Taiwan

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Taiwanese officials in Geneva said the country is facing a multitude of obstacles in its bid to be included in the World Health Organ-ization's (WHO) revised Inter-national Health Regulations (IHR), the Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

The UN health body's Intergovernmental Working Group last Monday started a 12-day meeting to revise the IHR, a framework for the global containment of public health risks.

The purpose of the IHR is to provide security against the international spread of diseases with a minimum of interference in international travel.

After eight consecutive failed attempts to become a WHO observer, Taiwan considers inclusion in the IHR as a significant step to boost its chances of entering the WHO.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of International Organization, which is in charge of the IHR bid, declined to comment on whether Taiwan has made any progress in the IHR revision meetings yesterday.

"The meetings continue. It is inconvenient for us to reveal the details now," a ministry official involved in the plan said.

However, CNA reported that the US lent its support to a proposal by Taiwan's ally Nicaragua suggesting that changes be made to the wording of Article 65 in the draft revision of the IHR.

The article regulates how states that are not members of the WHO may become parties to the IHR.

Taiwan has so far been barred from the revision process. Unnamed officials said that the country is not qualified to be a party to the IHR because the UN does not recognize it as a state.

Nicaragua's proposal to amend Article 65 said any territory that has the capacity to carry out duties the IHR demands should be allowed to become a party to the regulations.

The US and Taiwan's allies backed Nicaragua's proposal during the revision discussions, CNA reported.

Canada and the EU held a more ambiguous position. They said they could accept the version of Article 65 offered by the WHO Secretariat, but would not oppose an amendment to the article, the news agency said.

According to CNA, Canada and the EU said that nobody should be excluded from the IHR, with Canada stressing that information and assistance should be made available to everybody in outbreaks of diseases such as avian flu and SARS.

China reportedly opposed the amendment, arguing that how an IHR party might carry out the regulations should be a topic discussed internally rather than an issue debated in an international body like the WHO.

Taiwanese officials said that, although they faced various difficulties, they would not give up any opportunities and that they are encouraged by the progress made so far, the news agency said.

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