Taiwan must strive to become a more active human rights advocate despite its alienation from the global community, academics and activists said yesterday at the International Human Rights Forum in Kaohsiung, stressing that Taiwan should augment its human rights aid to other parts of world.
The forum, attended by 150 participants and activists from Japan, Canada, Nepal, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, was held in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Without directly commenting on recent accusations of human right violations leveled at the government, the speakers mostly urged the audience to safeguard the dignity and the rights of people in Taiwan and abroad.
One academic raised the question of how different Taiwan’s human rights condition would be if it had not suffered 37 years of alienation from the international community after it forfeited its UN seat back in 1971.
“What would have happened if in the last 37 years, [Taiwanese officials] were involved in the UN human rights protection movement … and responsible in preparing human rights reports before UN committees?” asked Peter Huang (黃文雄), director of Amnesty International Taiwan.
Despite lacking access to the formal international human rights authority, he said, Taiwan has been fortunate enough to receive help from the non-official regimen through various non-government organizations and human-rights watchdogs which he believes to be the major support for Taiwan’s human right campaigns. He called on NGOs to continue to provide help to buttress Taiwan’s human rights development, calling Taiwan a “needy case.”
Disagreeing with Huang, US human rights activist and long-standing supporter of Taiwan democracy, Linda Gail Arrigo, said Taiwan needs to “stop crying to the international community,” but try to become a more active player in improving human-rights conditions around the world.
Taiwan, she said, is a “small case” compared the much more severe human rights infringements going on in other parts of the globe such as Iran, Iraq and Africa.
“Taiwan needs to learn how to solve its own problems,” she said, saying that after decades of growth, Taiwan now possesses the skills and the resources to assist neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, in ameliorating the human rights deficiencies in those lands.
One crucial step in improving Taiwan’s human-rights scene, said Fort Liao (廖福特), an Academia Sinica research fellow, is to amend the Constitution “because the 1949 document fails to include all the tenets of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The panelists agreed that even without formal UN membership, Taiwan must adhere to the UN protocols on human rights to ensure unalienable rights.