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Taiwan wants back in as a WHA observer

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Taiwan has put out a call for international support for it to be allowed to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation.

Between 2009 and 2016, Taiwan had been invited to attend the WHA as an observer. No invitation was sent last year.

In 2017, pressure from Beijing resulted in the WHA refusing to invite Taiwan to attend the forum, which was the 70th World Health Assembly.

Taiwan’s application to observe most of the WHO’s technical meetings was also declined.

When asked during a media conference at the time why Taiwan was not invited to 70th WHA, the head of WHO Governing Bodies Timothy Armstrong said it was due to an “absence” of a cross-strait understanding.

“Negotiations are still ongoing,” he said. “Anything is possible.”

So Taiwan is seeking an invitation to this year’s WHA.

“Taiwan was not invited to attend the 70th World Health Assembly as an observer in 2017. For many years, however, it has participated in the WHA and WHO technical meetings, mechanisms and activities; steadily contributed to enhancing regional and global disease prevention networks; and dedicated its utmost to assisting other countries in overcoming healthcare challenges in order to jointly realise WHO’s vision that health is a fundamental right,” it says in a statement.

“Therefore, there is widespread support that Taiwan should be invited to attend the WHA.

“Located at a key position in East Asia, Taiwan shares environmental similarities for communicable disease outbreaks with neighbouring countries and is frequently visited by international travellers.

“This makes Taiwan vulnerable to cross-border transmission and cross-transmission of communicable disease pathogens, which could lead to their genetic recombination or mutation, and give rise to new infectious agents.

“However, because Taiwan is unable to attend the WHA and is excluded from full participation in related WHO technical meetings, mechanisms, and activities, it is only after much delay that Taiwan can acquire diseases and medical information, which is mostly incomplete. This creates serious gaps in the global health security system and threatens people’s right to health.”

Taiwan has also been keen of late to highlight its international successes in both medical breakthroughs and global assistance.

In recent years it has transformed from aid recipient to assistance provider. It has established many disease prevention systems. Taiwan insists it needs the WHO to protect the health of its own people, but that it can also contribute greatly to global health protection.

“With an interest in making professional health contributions and protecting the right to health, Taiwan seeks participation in the 71st WHA this year in a professional and pragmatic way, in order to become a part of global efforts to realise WHO’s vision for a seamless global disease prevention network,” its statement says.

Interestingly, the WHO’s own constitution states:

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”