Sat, Apr 13, 2019 - Page 3 News List

UK bodies back WHA attendance

Staff writer, with CNA

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference at UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 18 last year.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The British ministries in charge of foreign policy and healthcare have voiced support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, including the World Health Assembly (WHA).

The decisionmaking body of the WHO is to hold its 71st session from May 20 to May 28 in Geneva, Switzerland, and Taiwan has sought to attend as an observer. However, it has yet to receive an invitation because of Chinese obstruction and is likely to be excluded from the event for the third consecutive year.

British lawmaker Martin Vickers asked British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt about Taiwan’s bid in written inquires on March 28 and Tuesday last week.

The lawmaker asked what steps their departments had made or were taking to support Taiwan’s participation in the WHA as an observer this year and whether they have encouraged the nation to participate at technical meetings of the WHO.

In a written response on Friday last week, British Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention Jackie Doyle-Price at the health department said that the UK continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations.

The British government is working with like-minded countries to lobby the WHA to issue an invitation to Taiwan to observe the WHA next month, Doyle-Price wrote.

“The United Kingdom continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations where statehood is not a prerequisite and where Taiwan can make a valuable contribution,” she said.

“The UK believes the WHA and related technical meetings of the WHO meet these criteria,” she said.

British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Field gave a nearly identical response on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in response to media queries about Taiwan’s WHA participation, an EU official said that it “promotes practical solutions regarding Taiwan’s participation in international frameworks, wherever this is consistent with the EU’s ‘one China’ policy and the EU’s policy objectives.”

“This includes the WHO and all its technical meetings where Taiwan’s participation would be welcome, as it is in the broader global, and indeed the EU’s, interest,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

However, the EU is not a member of the WHO, only an observer, limiting what it can do, the official said.

“In general, as well as in this particular case, we make an effort to discuss with partners and seek practical solutions to include Taiwan where it has relevant technical competence and capacities,” the official said, reiterating the same EU stance as last year.

The US and Canada have also expressed support for the nation’s WHA bid.

In response to media queries about whether the WHO has made a decision regarding Taiwan’s involvement at the WHA this year and what effect the nation’s absence would have on world health security, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier repeated previous comments on the issue.

“Previous invitations to the WHA have been issued on the basis of a cross-strait understanding,” Lindmeier said, adding that in the absence of such an understanding, invitations have not been issued.

“If there is no cross-strait understanding this year, it is not expected that an invitation to the WHA will be issued,” he said.

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