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'Together we will make a difference': Open Parliament Forum in Taiwan concludes

Taiwan-hosted conference on governance, citizen engagement, and combating authoritarian influence features local and international speakers

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'Together we will make a difference': Open Parliament Forum in Taiwan concludes

(Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The 2021 Open Parliament Forum came to a close in Taipei on Friday (Dec. 3), with its international group of attendees calling for a united democratic front against authoritarianism and Taiwan looking toward a bigger presence on the world stage.

The agenda on Friday featured panels on "emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges in open parliament efforts"; "how open parliament can perform oversight on the executive branch"; "civil society's role in supporting the open government partnership"; and "advancing anti-corruption through cooperation between parliament and civil societies."

Participating were lawmakers, activists, and civil society groups from the U.S., U.K., Japan, France, Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Sri Lanka. Two Belizean government officials and 10 pro-Taiwan legislators from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia had flown to Taiwan earlier in the week to attend in person.

Many of the countries represented at the conference are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global initiative that seeks to draft concrete "action plans" for governments to empower transparency and effectiveness as well as empower citizens. Taiwan seeks to join, and this forum was intended as a case for its membership in the OGP and international organizations in general.

The two-day event ended with the signing of a memorandum of understanding and remarks from Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮). He pointed out that Taiwan is the first Asian nation that is not part of the OGP to host such a forum.

He added that Taiwanese "have never turned back" since their country transitioned into a democracy and vowed to be relentless in continuing to address problems its democratic system, especially in the face of the challenge posed by an authoritarian China "determined to crush our democracy through military coercion and hybrid warfare."

He lauded the Baltic countries for being good examples that are withstanding similar challenges from the authoritarian giant at their own doorstep, Russia, calling them "beacons." "This is a new beginning for democracies around the world to work together as one," he concluded. "Trust me, you will have a good friend and a reliable partner in Taiwan, and together we will make a difference."

Taiwan and the three Baltic states have been enjoying increasingly warming ties.

Taiwan donated epidemic prevention equipment early in the pandemic, and Latvia and Lithuania donated vaccine doses over the past few months as the East Asian country suffered a shortage. In addition, Lithuania and Taiwan agreed to mutually open representative offices in each other's capitals, with Lithuania refusing to back down when China applied a wide range of pressure to intimidate it into reneging on the Taiwanese office.