TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The annual summit of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Health Assembly (WHA) is going to be held in Switzerland May 21-26, 2018.
Taiwan has been maneuvering to secure an invitation to the event ever since the country was denied a place as an observer at the WHA in 2017. Despite not yet receiving the invite, Taiwan and supportive nations and associations are beginning the last minute campaign to convince the organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to grant Taiwan observer status.
CNA reports that as of April 7, a large number of Taiwan’s allies had sent direct proposals to the WHO on Taiwan’s behalf, however the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not state any countries by name.
Additionally, ICRT reports that the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance says the European Union, the United States, and Japan will all lodge formal requests with the WHO that Taiwan’s delegation be granted access to attend the WHA.
In the U.S. Congress, a bill directing the Secretary of State to “develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization” (H.R. 3320) was passed by the House or Representatives and has been awaiting a vote in the Senate since January, 2018. Passage of this bill in the next month may determine how strong of an endorsement the U.S. government is willing to make for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.
In the Philippines on April 12, Taiwan’s representative to the country Gary Song-Huann Lin addressed the government and the people of the nation asking for their support in advocating for Taiwan’s inclusion at this years WHA.
Lin said in his statement, published in a major local newspaper, that “It is morally wrong for any country or organization to deprive the 23 million Taiwanese people of their fundamental health rights to participate in 2018 WHA and to share international health information as well as the prevention of disease and epidemics.”
Mentioning the many medical contributions of Taiwan to regional safety and health, Lin says that “unfortunately, Taiwan is unable to attend the WHA and is excluded from full participation in related WHO technical meetings, mechanisms, and activities, this creates serious gaps in the global health security system and threatens people’s right to health.”
Lin’s address to the Philippines is likely to be one of many such appeals in various countries across the world, as Taiwan’s representatives try to galvanize as much support as possible ahead of the important Assembly in late May.
One piece of good news that may signal a shift away from politics and indicate a strong show of support in the world’s medical community, is that the World Medical Association (WMA), an independent organization representing the physicians of the world, recently rejected Chinese pressure to force Taiwan to change its name to “Chinese Taipei,” even though China has threatened to give up hosting the organization’s 2021 General Assembly meeting over the issue.
The WMA is independent from the WHO, however the two groups often work closely together, and the WMA supports the directives and policies of the WHO. Perhaps WMA members who support Taiwan’s inclusion may be uniquely positioned to advocate for Taiwan from within the WHO.
The CNA report notes that even if Taiwan does not receive the official invitation, the nation’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) will still lead a delegation to Switzerland to communicate with the delegations from other nations at non-WHO sanctioned meetings on the sidelines of the official WHA.