Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Beginning of a new diplomatic war front

The new drive launched by President Chen Shui-bian and the Democratic Progressive Party government to apply directly for membership in the World Health Organization in Geneva under the name of "Taiwan" has succeeded in pulling the authoritarian People's Republic of China into open and direct competition with "democratic Taiwan" in the arena of public diplomacy.

Taiwan is already an important contributor of medical and public health to lesser developed countries in Africa, Central and South America and the South Pacific, but despite these efforts and the danger to all of a "break in the chain" of global disease prevention, Taiwan is excluded from the WHO network.

After a decade of unsuccessful attempts to secure observer status at the World Health Assembly and thereby indirectly participate in WHO activities under the "non-political" umbrella of a "health entity," the DPP government and health activists issued a direct application to become a WHO member state in an official missive sent in early April to WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan of Hong Kong.

The drive was backed by a publicity offensive that carried the message "Give Taiwan a seat in the WHO" as well as a transcontinental audiovisual press conference convened by Chen Friday with reporters in Taipei and Geneva.

The new gambit has sparked concern that a direct application could alienate the U.S., Japan and members of the EU who supported moves for "significant participation" given the specter of alleged "agenda" of the Taiwan president of promoting "legal independence."

However, in addition to opinion polls showing 95 percent support for Taiwan to enter the WHO, it is especially noteworthy that the Legislative Yuan unanimously approved a resolution Friday morning to "fully support the government's struggle to become a WHO member and uphold the basic health rights of Taiwan's 23 million people."

In light of the bitter divisions regarding national identity and virtually every other issue in the Legislature, the ability of the Kuomintang and its allied People First Party to back this resolution indicates that opposition parties don't see the WHO membership attempt as an "agenda" or "credibility" issue of Chen or the DPP but rather as a near unanimous consensus and joint demand by all our people.

As President Chen noted last Friday, the fact of the matter is that the PRC remains absolutely opposed to any indirect or direct, unofficial or official involvement by Taiwan in the WHO or any other international organizations, regardless of whether we use the "Republic of China" moniker or the "most beautiful and forceful" name of "Taiwan."

No more secret betrayals

This fact is demonstrated most clearly in the heretofore secret "Memorandum of Understanding Between the WHO Secretariat and China" signed on May 14, 2005, the third article of which explicitly refers to the "obligation of the Secretariat to refrain from actions which could constitute recognition of a separate status of Taiwanese authorities and institutions."

The MOU requires vetting by the PRC Ministry of Health for any contacts between the WHO and Taiwan, including the dispatch of WHO experts to what it insultingly refers to as "Taiwan, China" for "acute public health emergencies."

However, the signing of this secret pact constitutes a direct betrayal by the WHO Secretariat of its ideals of "Health for All" and a gross violation of the WHO Constitution, which does not grant the secretariat or the WHO director-general the right to decide whether a country or representative organization (such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is a WHO observer despite not being a U.N. member) should enjoy membership.

Indeed, by refusing Taiwan's entry into the WHO and acquiescing to this secret betrayal, the WHO Secretariat and all of the 192 WHO members are putting the rest of the world, including their own citizens, at risk purely for the sake of their desire to curry favor with the Beijing authorities or out of craven cowardice to challenge the PRC myth that it "owns" sovereignty over Taiwan.

The strategic points behind an application for membership is to force the WHO Secretariat and the World Health Assembly, under the WHO Constitution and the WHA by-laws, to respond directly to the issue and turn the matter to discussion by all member states and to expose the secret diplomacy of the WHO Secretariat and the authoritarian government to sell out not only the health rights of our people but also endanger the health rights of the rest of global society for the sake of Beijing's revanchism.

Naturally, the prospects for Taiwan's affiliation to the WHA or WHO will not immediately improve due to this gambit, but they can hardly be worsened since the main obstacle is the PRC itself.

A hint of what may come is shown by the sharp reaction by journalist rights groups, including the International Federation of Journalists and the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, to the decisions since 2004 by the U.N. office in Geneva, undoubtedly acting under Beijing's marching orders, to prohibit direct news coverage of the WHA meeting by Taiwan journalists simply because they are from Taiwan.

In a May 14th statement, Reporters without Borders condemned the "appalling discrimination" caused by the refusal by the U.N. and the WHO to accept accreditation requests from five Taiwan journalists to cover the WHA simply because they are from Taiwan and declared that the people of Taiwan "can fall victim to pandemics and have the right to be informed like anyone else."

Besides "pandering to Beijing's hostility to any Taiwanese presence within international bodies," RWB warned that the U.N. action "gives priority to the national issue rather than to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which guarantees press freedom and free circulation of information."

Despite yesterday's failure to win a place on the WHA agenda, we believe that the new strategy will ultimately be more effective at winning sympathy in world civil society and in turn promote broader support in the WHO itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For pete's sake. Why would anyone want to visit this blog? Would you link to other important Taiwan blogs and websites like FAPA, FAHR, Taipei Times, etc?! Blogging is about building community with other likeminded bloggers and providing resources to enlarge interactions. Your blog does nothing like that.

The header says U n WHO. This is a misspelling. It should say UN WHO. It does not look very professional with a spelling error in the title.

Also, would you put up some Taiwan oriented pictures! Humans are visual apes and like to see pictures! And change the header so it is about Taiwan, clearly about Taiwan. Your purpose is promotion. You should also spell out somewhere in the sidebar what action you want people to take, who they can contact, etc.