The World Health Assembly (WHA) is slated to take place on May 24th as the world is still devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, one year onward. Despite Taiwan’s outstanding contribution in containing the spread of virus which has sickened over 162 million and claimed more than 3.3 million lives worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet invited Taiwan for a seat at its annual assembly.
With outpouring of recognition for Taiwan’s ability to contribute to global health and human security, the U.S. and like-minded allies and partners around the world have stepped up efforts to call for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO.
In an unprecedented move on May 5th, the G-7 joint communique stated its support for “Taiwan's meaningful participation in World Health Organization forums and the World Health Assembly,” adding that “the international community should be able to benefit from the experience of all partners, including Taiwan's successful contribution to the tackling of the COVID-19 pandemic."
On May 6th, the French Senate unanimously passed a resolution with bipartisan support for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations, including the WHO.
On May 7th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement, highlighting that “there is no reasonable justification” for Taiwan’s continued exclusion from the WHA, as excluding “a reliable partner, a vibrant democracy, and a force for good in the world” only “imperils our shared global health objectives,” and is “detrimental to collective international efforts to get the pandemic under control and prevent future health crises.”
Last month, more than 300 parliamentarians from countries around the world joined members of the U.S. Congress in a global social media campaign calling on WHO to invite Taiwan. The campaign was echoed by many: “If Taiwan is left out, we all suffer. It’s time to #LetTaiwanHelp.”
Let Taiwan participate, as the Taiwan Model, based on our democratic experience of COVID-19 containment, has come to set an excellent example for the rest of the world. Taiwan’s world-class public healthcare system, cooperative citizens, democratic governance, and technological prowess to rapidly employ smart disease prevention systems, provided an effective approach at the early stages of the pandemic, without sacrificing civil liberties and human dignity.
Since the coronavirus outbreak last spring, Taiwan has proactively exchanged information on anti-pandemic measures with public health officials, experts, and scholars around the world. By organizing COVID-19 related multilateral forums, such as hosting Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) workshops and joining APEC’s high-level meeting on Health and the Economy, Taiwan has taken the initiative to foster international cooperation, scoring a record of over 140 meetings with medical experts from over 60 countries.
Let Taiwan participate, as Taiwan has given significant assistance to countries in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past year, Taiwan has donated over 54 million surgical masks as well as numerous medical supplies and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to more than 80 countries. Recently, Taiwan has sent hundreds of oxygen concentrators and cylinders to New Delhi to help India fight a surging increase in COVID-19 infections.
Let Taiwan participate, as the world struggles to recover from economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic. A technological powerhouse and a key partner in the restructuring of global supply chains in the post-pandemic era, Taiwan can leverage its industrial competitiveness to promote international cooperation in disease prevention, medicine, and digital healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic is once again a solemn reminder to the world that disease respects no borders and does not recognize geopolitics, class or any social division. After a year of whole-of-society efforts to become a success story of COVID-19 containment, Taiwan is now facing a sudden increase in domestic outbreaks. Such an acute threat comes at a time when countries battle against a new COVID surge. At this time of unprecedented challenge, it is urgent and crucial to leave no one behind in the global public health system.
No country can fight a pandemic alone. The worst humanitarian disaster of the century calls for greater international cooperation. All hands should be on deck to protect global health, human security, and chart the path to economic recovery.
Taiwan remains a willing and determined partner in these global efforts, and is committed to seeking meaningful participation in the WHO and other international organizations. Let Taiwan participate, so many more lives will stand to benefit.
Bi-khim Hsiao is Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States.