Safeguarding global health should be the responsibility of every citizen on this planet. However, when the world meets from May 20-28 in Geneva, the 23 million people of Taiwan will be without a voice in those talks. Health should always come before politics. Taiwan should be recognized for its efforts in global health and have an active role in the World Health Organization to help promote the health and well-being of all people. Regrettably, the WHO did not invite Taiwan to attend this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA).
Building a healthier future for people all over the world is a global issue that knows no borders. It requires not only national, but global solutions. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. If the WHO continues to exclude Taiwan from participation, what message does it send to the rest of the world?
Taiwan is located at a strategic node in the Indo-Pacific region. It has a particularly high need for disease prevention, as people and goods are constantly entering and leaving Taiwan. Taiwan deserves a seat at the table not only to safeguard the health of those citizens, but also to make invaluable contributions on the cutting edge of medical research, and also to because Taiwan is a key contributor during global health crises. In the area of public health, it is in everyone’s interest for Taiwan to play a role in addressing global disease issues. China’s efforts to exclude Taiwan from the WHA are harmful to cross-Strait relations and run counter to Beijing’s own professed goal of winning the support of the people of Taiwan.
Taiwan’s inability to attend the WHA creates serious gaps in the global health security system and threatens people’s right to health. It is therefore of the utmost importance to let Taiwan join the WHA so that it can contribute to enhancing regional and global disease prevention networks. China’s saber-rattling will jeopardize peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Taiwan should be allowed to attend the meeting in the interest of fundamental human rights. Taiwan will contribute greatly to the WHO and its bid to participate in the WHA should not be turned down.
Taiwan has proved to be a model in the Indo-Pacific region in its provision of affordable and nearly universal health care to its population. Many societies throughout the world are struggling with this vexing problem as they face aging populations with ever-increasing health-care needs. Only when every member of the international community is included in addressing collective health crises can the negative effects of the next potential pandemic be minimized.
US President Donald Trump needs to do more to bring Taiwan into the international disease-prevention system, which would benefit many nations and help the WHO be more effective in its prevention efforts. This would help ensure the realization of the WHO’s vision of health as a human right. Let Taiwan join in this year’s WHA as well as WHO technical activities so that it can contribute to achieve better health for everyone on the global stage. Striving to combat diseases concerns all humans, and Taiwan should not be excluded from these efforts.
The WHO is a non-political organization pursuing the highest health standards for humanity and should not solely serve Beijing’s political will. Global health concerns know no borders. The insertion of artificial restrictions for petty political reasons has no place at a meeting of international health professionals gathered to consider the health challenges facing the world today. The WHO needs Taiwan and its expertise in Geneva.