- - Friday, May 5, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In late April, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the United States jointly convened a special four-day public health workshop in Taipei focusing on ways to fight mosquito-borne infectious diseases. It was organized under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, a Taiwan-U.S. effort launched in June 2015 for strengthening bilateral collaboration on regional and international issues, including health. For Taiwan, this workshop was a perfect example of how it has expanded its expertise and its role in responding to international health crises.

It also exemplified the importance and necessity of Taiwan’s inclusion in the international health network. Nine years ago, having garnered tremendous international support, Taiwan was invited to attend the 62nd World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. Since then, Taiwan’s active participation in WHA and World Health Organization (WHO) technical meetings has improved disease control domestically and around the globe. As part of its effort to help fulfill WHO’s vision, Taiwan is committed to assisting other countries that face health challenges. It should again be invited to this year’s meeting.

In recent years, our medical experts and public health professionals have worked tirelessly to broaden our health and humanitarian aid efforts beyond borders. Since 1996, we have invested over $6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts that have benefited millions of people in over 80 countries.

Diseases recognize no boundaries. Therefore, Taiwan has worked to meet its responsibilities as a global citizen to control and mitigate the impact of infectious diseases. We have met our international health obligations since 2009, when we were officially included in WHO’s regulatory framework. Our government has evaluated and fine-tuned our surveillance and response schemes to meet international standards in a timely manner.

We are grateful for the long-standing support of our friends in the U.S. Congress, who continue to facilitate Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations, such as WHO, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) and other United Nations affiliated agencies. Meanwhile, the proactive assistance from the U.S. administration is key to our bid to actively take part in international affairs.

During a recent trip to Taipei, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty reaffirmed the U.S. position when he said, “We continue to support Taiwan’s meaningful and substantive contributions to the international community. In particular, the United States has welcomed Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the past eight World Health Assembly meetings.”

In an interview with Reuters on April 27, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen stressed: “Many countries support Taiwan’s participation and many have written to the WHA in hope that Taiwan can continue to participate. Taiwan’s participation in the WHA is not only a desire of the Taiwanese people, but the international community as well.” She added, “If China makes a decision to the contrary, this will have a major adverse impact on cross-strait relations.”

Being an aspiring player in the international stage, Taiwan is committed to working with other countries to “leave no one behind,” as stated in the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is to insure healthy lives and promote the well-being for all.

The WHO and Taiwan need each other to build an effective global health system. By participating in WHO activities over the past eight years, Taiwan has been able to share its experiences with other countries and to better contribute to overall global health.

The WHO Director-General has so far not yet issued an invitation to Taiwan this year. We urge the WHO to invite Taiwan to attend the 2017 World Health Assembly to be held in Geneva later this month so that we can continue collaborating with the international community on issues benefiting all mankind.

A health crisis anywhere can easily become a problem everywhere. We are committed to assisting other countries that face health challenges to fulfill WHO’s vision. We will continue working with the United States through the Global Cooperation and Training Framework to help our Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbors as they develop their own abilities to respond to health threats. Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA as an observer is the right thing to do. Too much is at stake to allow political disputes to get in the way of global health.

• Stanley Kao is Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States​.

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