Sun, Apr 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Inclusion in health rules possible

LOBBYING EFFORT Amendments to the WHO's International Health Regulations could pave the way for Taiwan's inclusion as an observer in the world health body

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

One of Taiwan's goals in launching the country's ninth annual bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO) next month is to be officially included in the International Health Regulations, the WHO's global legal framework for infectious disease control, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

Since the revision of the regulations began last year, MOFA has negotiated intensively with the US, Japan and the EU to solicit their support for an amendment of Article 2 of the regulations to include Taiwan, said Jich Wen-chich (介文汲), deputy director-general of the ministry's Department of International Organization.

The WHO's Intergovernmental Working Group, which carried out its second-round revisions of the regulations in February, amended Article 2, which states that the implementation of the regulations shall be guided by the goal of "universal application" for the protection of all people from the spread of disease.

"Everybody knows that the two words `universal application' were added to the regulations for Taiwan's sake," said Jich, who explained in a forum on the WHO that the amended regulations -- if officially adopted in the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- will create a legal foundation for Taiwan to participate in the health body.

The meeting of the WHA, the WHO's highest governing body, is in Geneva from May 16 to 25.

The revision of the regulations is slated to be discussed in one of the WHA committees and officially passed in a plenary session. Taiwan has been mobilizing its diplomatic allies and sympathetic countries to push for the passage of the amended Article 2 of the regulations, according to Jich.

Domestically, there are supporters and opponents of the government's strategy for joining the WHO. Many dislike the ministry's decision to apply for observer, rather than member, status in the WHA, and regard it as a self-defeating gesture, Jich said.

These people believe Taiwan, as a sovereign country, has every right to join the WHA as a member. They also oppose Taiwan joining the WHA as a "health entity," Jich added.

The reason the ministry chose to apply for observer status is to avoid disputes with China over sovereignty and help countries who want to support Taiwan's bid fend off pressure from Beijing, Jich said.

Countries like the US and Japan can back Taiwan's bid to enter the WHO as an observer without violating their "one China'' policy, Jich explained, because a WHO observer does not necessarily need to be a state.

Based on the WHO's own practice, the organization has deemed it appropriate for a number of "entities" to participate in WHA sessions as observers, according to MOFA.

Currently, the WHO has five observers -- the Holy See, Palestine, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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