The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has further demonstrated to the international community the need for Taiwan’s participation in global disease prevention mechanisms. Through the joint efforts of the government and civil society, Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Assembly this year has once again received unprecedented global support. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China (Taiwan) expresses its sincere gratitude for this overwhelming show of support and is confident about the prospects for its WHA campaign.
Due to the pandemic, the 73rd WHA was held virtually for the first time ever, with a session in May and a resumed session in November. In the May session, 14 diplomatic allies of Taiwan submitted a proposal for a supplementary agenda item entitled “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly as an Observer.” The proposal was considered during the resumed session, held from November 9 to 13. Although the agenda significantly shortened the time allotted to member states delivering statements, Taiwan was heartened by diplomatic allies and like-minded countries continuing to voice strong support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the World Health Organization.
During the resumed session of the 73rd WHA, Taiwan’s diplomatic allies engaged in two-plus-two debates in support of Taiwan. Nauru and Eswatini spoke up for Taiwan in opposition to China in the General Committee and the Marshall Islands and Honduras voiced support in the General Assembly. Taiwan’s allies praised the Taiwan Model, which has helped Taiwan successfully contain the virus, and urged WHO to learn from Taiwan’s experience. During these debates, Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, US Permanent Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, for the first time posted a three-minute video expressing support for Taiwan, urging WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to reinstate Taiwan’s WHA Observer status, which WHO granted Taiwan from 2009 to 2016. The video demonstrated staunch and steadfast US support for Taiwan. During this year’s WHA resumed session, the US and Japan both directly voiced support for Taiwan. In addition, the representative offices in Taiwan of like-minded countries, including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and France, also bolstered Taiwan’s campaign through social media posts on the first day of the WHA resumed session. This highlighted the fact that like-minded nations understand Taiwan’s ability to contribute to global antipandemic efforts and that they are now supporting Taiwan more openly. Taiwan is grateful for this support and hopes that more countries will add their voices.
Taiwan’s WHA bid has received growing international support and attention. During the second half of 2020, many high-ranking officials have openly endorsed Taiwan’s participation in WHO, including then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar II, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, German Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Niels Annen, and UK Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.
Legislators around the world have also shown unprecedented support for Taiwan’s participation in WHO. More than 1,700 lawmakers from over 80 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region have openly expressed their support. In addition, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international group of legislators hailing from five continents and 18 countries, as well as the European Parliament, and the World Medical Association (WMA) have published official statements backing Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA and other WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities. Compared to May this year, when more than 600 legislators voiced their support, nearly triple that number have supported Taiwan in the second half of the year. This is proof that the success of the Taiwan Model and the necessity of Taiwan’s participation in the global public health network are widely recognized around the globe. Support for Taiwan is gaining significant momentum.
The number of favorable news reports on Taiwan’s WHO bid in the international press has also been much higher compared to previous years. Following reports by numerous international mainstream media outlets on Taiwan’s WHO bid in May, the second half of the year saw a flurry of reports friendly to Taiwan, including in the New York Times in the United States, the Asahi Shimbun in Japan, Agence France-Presse in France, Reuters in the United Kingdom, and the Times of India. To date, media outlets from over 60 countries have published nearly 3,000 pieces supporting Taiwan’s WHO bid, including articles, commentaries, special columns, and op-eds by Taiwan Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-Chung. In addition, MOFA has released two short films entitled “Looking Up Again” and “Never Give Up,” highlighting Taiwan’s world-class medical treatment and health care. These films have been viewed over 16 million times.
Furthermore, on November 12, as the resumed session of the 73rd WHA was being held, Taiwan organized a side event—a virtual seminar entitled “Innovation of the National Cancer Registry.” Over 100 health officials and experts from 17 countries, including the United States, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands participated in the event. They recognized Taiwan’s achievements in cancer control and prevention, believing that Taiwan can make positive and concrete contributions to global public health.
MOFA is optimistic about Taiwan’s WHA bid and will continue collaborating with diplomatic allies and like-minded nations to seek participation in next year’s WHA as an Observer. In addition, MOFA calls on WHO to uphold a professional, neutral stance free from political interference so that, together, we may safeguard the health and wellbeing of humanity, combat the pandemic, and contribute to the postpandemic recovery. To achieve this, Taiwan must promptly be granted comprehensive and unhindered participation in all WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities, thereby helping realize WHO’s goal of health for all. (E)