TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Ten nations have spoken up for Taiwan on the second day of the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), including Paraguay, Guatemala, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Luxembourg, and Lithuania.
The WHA on Monday (May 23) said it will not include a supplemental item proposal to include Taiwan at the event, according to WHA President Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh. In response, multiple countries highlighted Taiwan's contributions to global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to reconsider its decision.
Paraguayan Health Minister Julio Borba said that the pandemic has been tough for the world and has highlighted inequalities. He said that the global community must ensure equity and solidarity to “achieve inclusive recovery where all countries, without exception, participate in the United Nations system, such as Taiwan, which has shown its commitment to global public health in line with the principle of universality.”
Guatemalan Minister of Public Health Francisco Jose Coma Martin thanked Taiwan in particular for its assistance in fighting COVID-19 and with other health issues. “We recognize the Republic of China, Taiwan, and its efforts in ensuring that people obtain the highest possible level of health (as well as its efforts) in post-pandemic recovery,” he said.
Martin said that Guatemala had therefore hoped Taiwan would be able to participate as an observer in the 75th assembly and WHO mechanisms and activities.
Loyce Pace, the assistant secretary for global affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the U.S. "deeply regrets" the exclusion of Taiwan, a vital, contributing partner to global health, from the WHA as an observer. She said the Biden administration advocates "strong global relationships" to fight COVID-19 and to "prevent and prepare for future health emergencies."
U.K. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said that in the "spirit of One Health," there is no reason not to include Taiwan as an observer at the WHA. Taiwan has played an important role in sharing information with the rest of the world since the beginning of the pandemic, he added.
France’s Director-General of Health Jerome Salomon said France supports inclusivity when it comes to global health. “We regret the absence of Taiwan in this 75th health assembly.”
Salomon said the global community needs “clear commitments” that allow it to respond appropriately to concerns highlighted by infectious diseases in the past 10 years.
German Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach said, “There must not be any blind spots on the map,” adding that the world needs to consider all nations’ experiences, including Taiwan's. With Taiwan’s successful COVID-19 response in mind, Lauterbach said the international community must guarantee “a well-functioning and well-financed multilateral health care architecture with a solid financing that allocates funds” in a way that reflects the principles it was founded on.
Canadian Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos stressed that the world needs “a stronger WHO.” The organization must be inclusive and reflective of the global health community, “which means supporting Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the WHA.”
Paul Kelly, chief medical officer of the Australian Department of Health, said there are important lessons to draw from COVID-19 in terms of improving pandemic preparation and response. The delegate noted that the virus has “underscored the importance of working with all partners, including Taiwan,” to handle global health security concerns.
Kelly said Australia “remains committed to building a more resilient global health system.”
Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert said that with regard to public health, the WHO should aim to benefit from the knowledge of all stakeholders, in particular by allowing Taiwan to be an observer at technical meetings.
Lithuanian Health Minister Arunas Dulkys underscored “the importance and adherence to the principle of effective multilateralism to be able to build a secure global health architecture.” Dulkys urged the WHO to invite Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer and to attend other WHO mechanisms and meetings.
Doing so would benefit the global community, as it would learn from Taiwan’s experience and scientific and technical expertise, he said, adding that this would also support the WHO’s mission to improve global health.
Taiwanese Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Lee Li-fen (李麗芬) is currently in Geneva to hold as many sideline conferences with WHO member nations as possible. On Monday, she held talks with Lithuanian Health Minister Dulkys about potential future health cooperation.