Why Taiwan must participate in WHA

DEAR EDITOR:

The 71st World Health Assembly, or WHA, will meet May 21-26, and Taiwan, an important partner in the global health network, seeks participation. For many years, Taiwan has participated in WHA and World Health Organization, or WHO, technical meetings, mechanisms and activities. Taiwan has contributed greatly to international health and would like to do more, sharing significant medical breakthroughs it has made. However, in 2017 Taiwan was not invited to attend the 70th WHA as an observer. This exclusion then was a mistake. However, to continue this exclusion this year would be neither correct nor acceptable.

The constitution of WHO states that “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, or economic and social condition.” The UN General Assembly pledged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that no one will be left behind.

As a people and as a good neighbor, Taiwan has a right to attend. Moreover, Taiwan is needed. Disease knows no boundaries, and Taiwan, a significant travel hub, could become a dangerous hole in the international health network if this information isolation is permitted. Delays in communication create serious gaps which threaten people’s right to health. Given Taiwan’s significant role in export and import, its exclusion, from the international health system could also pose a threat to global food safety.

Taiwan was the first country in Asia to implement a national health insurance program. We want to share our experience battling disease and promoting public health with all WHO members. Taiwan’s comprehensive disease prevention system, numerous training workshops to prevent Ebola, MERS, dengue fever and Zika in the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia facilitate collective efforts to strengthen global health security. Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA would aid such efforts.

Sidelining Taiwan harms the whole global health network. Only when every member of the international community is included in this collective fight against disease can we minimize the negative effects of the next potential pandemic infection. We call upon the WHO and related parties to acknowledge the justice and importance of Taiwanás participation in the WHA.

ERIC HUANG

Director General

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office

Chicago

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