Presidential Office, MOFA state deep regret, displeasure over WHO remarks

The Office of the President and Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed May 12 deep regret and displeasure over remarks by a World Health Organization official citing an absence of cross-strait understanding as a reason for not inviting Taiwan to attend as an observer at the World Health Assembly taking place later this month in Geneva.

Taiwan is a member of the international community, and as such, its people are entitled to enjoy the same rights to good health as everyone else on Earth, the Office of the President said, adding that there is no reason why the country should be excluded and the truth of this principle is self-evident.

The response from the Office of the President follows remarks by Dr. Timothy Armstrong, director of the WHO Department of Governing Bodies and External Relations, during a news conference in the Swiss city at which he also said Taiwan's participation in WHO technical meetings would continue.

We hereby call once again upon the WHO to duly recognize Taiwan as a link in the global disease control system and face up to the common claim of countries in every region and international health bodies, the Office of the President said.

The WHO's action will not weaken the country's determination to participate in and contribute to the international community. The government will continue working to promote and enhance cooperation with related agencies in other countries to safeguard the health rights of the people of Taiwan, according to the Office of the President.

A statement was also issued by the MOFA the same day rejecting the unilateral and inaccurate characterization by the WHO and expressing strong dissatisfaction over the matter.

It is greatly disappointing that the WHO failed to abide by its Constitution and ignored widespread support in the international community for Taiwan's participation in the WHA, the ministry said.

Disease knows no boundary, and the fight to prevent the spread of disease brooks no absence. Countries the world over agree that political conditions ought not to be prioritized over the basic right to health.

This is also the gold standard under which our government strives to improve the well-being of the 23 million people of Taiwan.

According to the MOFA, political obstruction has resulted in a high rate of rejection for Taiwan's applications to attend WHO technical meetings, creating grave difficulties for the country's efforts to coordinate with the international community on disease prevention.

The ministry also called on the WHO to recognize the justice and importance of Taiwan's participation in the WHA, so there is no gap in the global disease prevention network and all parties can work together for the advancement of human health worldwide.

In 2009, Taiwan was invited by the WHO to take part as an observer in the annual WHA following an absence of 38 years. The country has since shared its extensive expertise in areas such as universal health care coverage and the management of contagious diseases like SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Source: Taiwan Today