2 Op-Ed articles on Taiwan's WHO inclusion
 

Click here to download these articles as a flier for distribution 

Return to World Health Taiwan Home

washingtonpost.com

The Shunning Of a State

By Chen Shui-bian
Friday, May 11, 2007; A19
[The writer is the President of Taiwan]

In recent years the outbreak and spread of avian flu has brought illness, death and economic peril to countries in Asia and elsewhere. Memories of the fear, pain and suffering that accompanied the 2003 SARS outbreak -- after failed coverups by the Chinese government -- are still vivid in many places. While disease heeds no national borders, Taiwan has had to fight pandemics without help from the World Health Organization -- a humanitarian agency that is supposed to serve all humankind.

Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, nor is it an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- unlike the Palestinian Authority or the Malta Order of Chivalry. But under mounting international pressure prompted by fear of an avian flu pandemic, China was persuaded in 2005 to consent, in principle, to Taiwan's meaningful participation in WHO conferences focusing on that threat. China conceded after demanding that the WHO secretariat sign a secret memorandum of understanding. As a result, Taiwan's participation in the WHO is subject to China's approval, even for technical meetings. Such participation is minimal rather than meaningful.

It is improper and unprecedented for an international humanitarian organization to enter into a secret pact with one of its member states, especially an authoritarian one. More important, the memorandum has been used to obstruct Taiwan's participation in WHO activities. Our representatives were unable to attend the majority of conferences they sought admission to last year. The WHO secretariat has effectively jeopardized the health of people in Taiwan and other countries.

For a decade, we have striven relentlessly to participate in the WHO, to no avail. Even our humble pursuit of "meaningful participation" has yielded little success. With 95 percent of the Taiwanese people supporting full WHO membership, I must act upon the will of my people as a democratically elected president.

On April 11, I sent a letter to the WHO formally requesting our nation's application for membership under the name "Taiwan." The secretariat responded on April 25, claiming that Taiwan is not a sovereign state and therefore is not eligible for WHO membership. This is legally and morally deplorable.

Article 3 of the Constitution of the World Health Organization stipulates: "Membership in the Organization shall be open to all States," while Article 6 provides that states such as Taiwan that are not members of the United Nations "may apply to become Members and shall be admitted as Members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the Health Assembly." Rule 115 of the WHA Rules of Procedure stipulates that "Applications made by a State for admission to membership . . . shall . . . be addressed to the Director-General and shall be transmitted immediately" to WHO members.

Clearly, the authority to determine whether Taiwan is eligible for admission to the WHO belongs to its members, many of which have diplomatic relations with Taiwan and cannot be co-opted by any individual or administrative office.

When East Germany applied for WHO membership in 1968, many questioned its sovereignty and the legitimacy of its government. But East Germany's application was circulated, and although it was voted down that year, it was approved in 1973.

Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, is indisputably a sovereign state, satisfying all of the criteria cited in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Duties and Obligations of States: It has a permanent population, a defined territory, a functional government and the capacity to conduct relations with other states. It also has its own internationally traded currency and issues its own passport, honored by virtually all other nations.

Another broadly affirmed criterion for recognizing the legitimacy of a state is the principle, enunciated in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the sovereignty a state exercises should be based on the will of the people. A truly "sovereign" state, in other words, is free and democratic. We find no better words to describe Taiwan.

Ultimately, the question of Taiwan's participation in the WHO is a moral one. The systematic shunning of Taiwan is unconscionable not only because it compromises the health of our 23 million people but also because it denies the world the benefit of our abundant public health and technical resources. Taiwan's public and private sectors have donated more than $450 million in medical and humanitarian aid to more than 90 countries over the past 10 years.

We in Taiwan are grateful that many governments and legislative bodies such as the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament have supported our bid for observer status in the WHA. As humankind seeks to control global pandemics, victory will require collaboration that is not restricted by political obfuscation or subject to discriminatory picking and choosing of participants. We must not allow an all-but-one scenario to undermine our common mission -- health for all.

 

The Washington Times
Taiwan belongs in WHO
By Bob Dole
Published May 13, 2007

After campaigning unsuccessfully many years for observer status, Taiwan now seeks full membership in the World Health Organization (WHO).
            When WHO's governing assembly meets in Geneva tomorrow, Taiwan will seek to formalize its relations with WHO and thereby exponentially increase its health-related cooperation with other countries and international organizations and its ability to contribute quickly and directly to disease control and other efforts on local, regional and global bases.
            The case for admitting Taiwan to WHO could not be clearer:
            (1) Taiwan has the resources to become a top-tier participant. In the last 10 years, its public and private sectors have provided more than $450 million in health care and humanitarian aid to more than 90 countries. Today, with one of the world's 20 largest economies, it is willing and able to do much more.
            (2) Taiwanese doctors and other health-care professionals have the skills to provide services to the widest possible range of beneficiaries. At home, their dedication and implementation of a superior health-care system has led the Economist to rank Taiwan the second-healthiest nation in the world.
            (3) Taiwan is uniquely placed to address health threats emanating from China and elsewhere in Asia. Having suffered from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic, which began in China in 2003, Taiwan worked closely and directly with other Asian countries in 2005 to prevent the spread of the bird flu (H5N1 influenza). Taiwan's full-fledged campaign made it the only East Asian country to escape this pandemic.
            Unfortunately, Taiwan's efforts to increase its health-care outreach and its effectiveness through cooperation with WHO are actively and constantly thwarted by communist China and WHO itself. Beijing, an authoritarian regime, vigorously opposes every attempt by Taiwan, a vibrant democracy, to participate in international organizations. WHO is governed U.N.-style: This means political considerations sometimes trump its avowed mission, rational decisionmaking is sometimes lacking and doors that should be wide open are sealed shut.
            An example of how this translates into action and inaction is WHO's refusal to allow Taiwan to take part in conferences on the bird flu. In the critical initial stages of the SARS outbreak, WHO and China refused to share information with Taiwan, thereby putting Taiwan and many other countries at greater risk. Recently, WHO signed a secret memorandum with China requiring that WHO obtain China's permission before sharing information with Taiwan or inviting Taiwanese doctors or officials to conferences.
            At the same time, WHO has extended membership or observer status to such nonstates as the Cook Islands, the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Vatican and even the Palestine Liberation Organization. Yet Taiwan, which is genuinely positioned to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars and serve as a barrier to the spread of sudden disease outbreaks, remains locked out even as it applies for WHO membership as "Taiwan" rather than under its official name "Republic of China" -- which is rejected by Beijing and in standard international parlance under the "one China, two political systems" doctrine.
            I have been a supporter of Taiwan throughout my career. When President Jimmy Carter prepared to terminate relations with Taiwan and establish full diplomatic relations with Beijing, I introduced a Senate resolution, which passed by a 97-0 vote, to require the administration to consult with Congress before changing our country's relations with Taiwan. Based on the mandate of this resolution, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), which has guided our countries' bilateral relations -- and provided significantly for Taiwan's defense -- ever since.
            During my service as minority and majority leader in the Senate, I supported many measures to provide tangible political, economic and military assistance to Taiwan. Today, as registered representatives of Taiwan in the U.S., my law firm and I continue to seek greater support for this important, democratic U.S. ally.
            In my view, the next major step in our relations -- and in Taiwan's relations with the world -- is a major diplomatic push to support Taiwan's WHO candidacy.
            Admitting Taiwan to WHO is not only in Taiwan's interests and those of other countries that support disease eradication and prevention and improved health care standards; it is also directly in U.S. interests. There are 170,000 Americans resident in Taiwan, and our country provides 22 percent of WHO's budget.
            I appeal to President Bush and his representatives to WHO, as well as those of the world's other democracies, to stand up to the WHO's bureaucracy and the regime in Beijing by voting to grant full WHO membership to Taiwan.
            The world is a dangerous enough place already. We should not allow political obstructions to tie Taiwan's hands and deny those in need the benefit of its health-care talents and economic largess.   
Bob Dole is a former Senate majority leader and was the 1996 Republican candidate for president.

 Return to World Health Taiwan Home