Mon, May 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Nation should raise support ahead of WHA: ex-official

By Lu Yi-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The nation should garner the support of the international community and the next WHO director-general ahead of the World Health Assembly (WHA), former WHO representative Peter Chang (張武修) said.

The WHO’s decisionmaking body is to meet later this month in Geneva, Switzerland, but Taiwan has yet to receive an invitation.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) last week said that he will lead a delegation to the WHA even if it does not send Taiwan an invitation, adding that contingency plans have been prepared to explain Taiwan’s position and its contributions to medicine.

Chang, a physician and retired official with nearly two decades of experience in WHO affairs, on Saturday said that the government’s pledge to send a delegation to Geneva with or without an invitation is a “good move” that allows Taiwan to take the initiative.

For Taiwan, participation in international health events is comparable to the Olympics Games in that it is an opportunity to present the nation’s image to the world, Chang said, adding that officials might compensate for Taiwan’s exclusion from the assembly by sending messages to the world.

The nation’s participation in international organizations is more than a formality because it allows the establishment of relations with the global community, he said.

The international medical and healthcare arena is comprised of “a complex commercial network,” and Taiwan’s use of its observer status is a “mere formality,” Chang said.

The government’s failure to allocate sufficient funds to official development assistance was a major obstacle to the nation’s efforts to convince other governments to support Taiwan in the WHO, he said.

“We cannot attend the meetings empty-handed. Instead, we should have a compelling and professionally crafted cooperative strategy prepared after observing the needs of other nations and forming ties with their professionals,” Chang said.

This year, the assembly is to elect the successor to WHO Director-General Margaret Chen (陳馮富珍), who is to step down soon, he said.

The candidates are Ethiopia’s former minister of health and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who represents Africa; Britain’s David Nabarro, a UN epidemiology consultant who represents Europe and the Americas; and Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar, a former federal minister of health who represents South Asia.

Taiwan should consider the pre-election period an opportunity, because it is a test of WHO politics and sees a redistribution of power within the organization, Chang said, calling on the government to “aggressively lobby” all three candidates to support Taiwan.

“The nation’s medical profession and the public expect Taiwan to have a role in the WHA, and the nation should unite and give it its best effort,” he said. “Even if this year’s outcome does not fully meet the nation’s expectations, the government has no room for fear, avoidance or doubt.”

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