The Republic of China (Taiwan) was a founding member of the World Health Organization (WHO), but since losing its seat in 1972 has been completely shut out of participation. Nevertheless, the nation believed and still believes that health and medicine throughout the world is a globally shared responsibility, and so in 1997 Taiwan began a formal push to participate once again in the WHO. After years of tireless effort, Taiwan was finally invited by the WHO to attend the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) under observer status beginning in 2009. Unfortunately, in 2017 this hard-won victory was negated when the WHO, in contravention of its own charter and disregarding the broad support of the global community, gave in to political pressure by China and refused to offer further invitations. In addition to strenuously objecting, Taiwan has asserted that this decision by the WHO will never shake the nation's commitment to participate in and contribute to the world's family of nations.
In recent years, the success and capabilities of Taiwan's medical and health endeavors have been widely recognized by the international community. In particular, the nation's response to the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has received high praise globally, with more countries supporting Taiwan's bid to participate in both the WHO and WHA. In addition to Taiwan's diplomatic allies around the world, many like-minded nations support Taiwan's voice being heard in the highest halls. Hand in hand with other great nations of the Earth, Taiwan will hold to its principles of "professionalism, pragmatism, and willingness to contribute" to engage at the earliest opportunity with international organizations and help achieve the WHO's own goal of realizing the highest attainable standard of health of every human being.
What is the basis of Taiwan's right to participate in the WHA?
◆ Health is a universal human right: The constitution of the WHO states that "[t]he 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, economic or social condition." As a member of the international community, Taiwan sees no excuse for its citizens to be excluded from this declared right to health and well-being guaranteed to the people of all nations on Earth.
◆ Prevention and control of epidemics require a global effort: The trend toward globalization and growing convenience of public transportation in recent years has also opened the world to the global spread of disease. Taiwan's participation in the WHA not only secures the rights and interests of the nation's people to health and hygiene, but more importantly represents a necessary link in the global chain of medical care and disease prevention.
◆ Taiwan has the ability to contribute substantively to global health: Taiwan is a member of the international community and an active participant in global affairs. For the sake of human health throughout the world, Taiwan has always pursued an ambitious course in promoting health, including researching newly emerging communicable disease and innovative methods to halt or control their spread. Such material contributions by Taiwan's advanced medical professions benefit the entire world, and represent a gift to those in need regardless of location or nationality.