Friday, May 11, 2007

Chen holds WHO bid conference

WALKS FOR HEALTH: Two walks are planned to start simultaneously in Taipei and Kaohsiung tomorrow in support of the nation's bid for inclusion in the WHO

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will hold an international news conference via satellite video today to tell the world why Taiwan wants to become a member of the WHO.

To raise the profile of the video conference, Taiwanese officials stationed in Geneva said the event would be conducted in the form of a news conference, with Chen taking questions from reporters in Taipei and Geneva and interacting with them. Moreover, simultaneous interpretation would be available throughout the whole event, they said.

Chen has held international video conferences relating to Taiwan's WHO bid before, but they have been in the form of a seminar without simultaneous interpretation services being made available to the press.

"This time around, President Chen will only deliver some brief opening remarks and then focus on interacting with reporters from around the world," a Geneva-based Government Information Office official said.

According to the official, the news conference will be broadcast live via satellite from two locations -- the Presidential Office in Taipei and the Bristol Hotel in Geneva. Invitations have been sent to all media outlets in Geneva, the official said.

The annual World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the decision-making arm of the WHO -- is set to open on Monday at the UN office in Geneva. The WHA's opening session is expected to deal with Taiwan's application for WHO membership under the name "Taiwan."

Since 1997, Taiwan has sought to become a WHA observer, but the bid has invariably been dashed by China's obstruction.

This year marks the first time that Taiwan has applied for full WHO membership. Without any fundamental changes in the international situation over the past year, prospects for Taiwan's new WHO bid remain bleak.

Sources said a married couple from Taiwan who came down with potentially fatal SARS four years ago would appear at the Geneva news conference to highlight the need for Taiwan to be included in the global epidemic prevention network.

Taiwanese ultramarathon runner Kevin Lin (林義傑), who made headlines earlier this year by completing a three-month crossing of the Sahara Desert, will also be present at the Geneva video conference.

Although the WHO Secretariat has rejected Taiwan's membership application, conveyed in a letter from the president to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍), on the basis that Taiwan is not qualified for a WHO seat due to its lack of statehood and UN membership, a number of Taiwan's diplomatic allies have written to Chan asking her to deal with the case prudently and put it onto the WHA agenda.

Sources have said that on its opening day, the WHA General Committee plans to debate whether to include Taiwan's membership application on the WHA agenda, as proposed by Taiwan's allies.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, two sponsored walks will be held simultaneously in Kaohsiung and Taipei tomorrow in support of Taiwan's inclusion in the WHO.

"We hope that these walks for health will help raise the profile of Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO," said Peter Chang (張武修), head of the Department of Health's Bureau of International Cooperation.

Those interested in joining either of tomorrow's walks can visit for more information.

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