The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit. It officially came into force on January 1, 2016. Picture: The United Nations
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit. It officially came into force on January 1, 2016. Picture: The United Nations

The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly will open on September 17. The first day of the high-level General Debate will be held on September 24. Important topics will range from universal health coverage and financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to the elimination of nuclear weapons and the progress in development cooperation with Small Island Developing States.

Regrettably, although all 193 member states are represented in this unique forum, Taiwan is barred, even though it is one of the leading economies in the world and willing to cooperate on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter.

The residents of Taiwan have worked very hard to accomplish remarkable economic, political and social changes over the past 70 years. Taipei has shared its success by providing economic aid to Latin American, African and other Asian countries. Even Washington has encouraged Taipei to participate in multilateral efforts to promote global prosperity. Taiwan belongs only to the people living there. Neglecting this population is a gross violation of the universality of membership principles that the United Nations upholds. Taiwan’s people deserve better than this.

Taiwan’s inclusion in the United Nations and other appropriate international organizations is important for Taiwan, important for the United States and important for the entire international community, Thus I would like to convey to the international community the aspiration of the 23 million people of Taiwan to participate in the UN system and also to echo the launching of Taipei’s campaign “Taiwan, a Vital Global Partner in the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The US House of Representatives recently unanimously backed legislation supporting Taiwan, which faces military and diplomatic pressure from China, as members of the US Congress push for a sharper approach to relations with Beijing. It also backed by unanimous voice vote the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019, which backed Taipei’s participation in international organizations. The legislation urges allies to resolve Taiwan’s long-standing exclusion from the UN system based on the principles of fairness, justice and inclusiveness, and the UN’s pledge to serve all peoples around the world.

There are three main elements to the Taiwanese appeal for inclusion in the UN. First, the United Nations should take immediate action to resolve the inappropriate exclusion of Taiwan’s 23 million people from the UN system. Second, the UN’s discriminatory policy against Taiwanese passport holders and journalists has violated their fundamental human rights and should be rectified immediately. Third, the UN should ensure that Taiwan has the right to participate in an equal and dignified manner in meetings, mechanisms and activities related to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and thus make contributions.

China has been bullying Taiwan for many years. Although Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, China’s ultimate goal is to annex the island. The US absolutely must not let that happen. As a dynamic and longtime US ally devoted to regional peace and stability, Taiwan is quietly carving out a role as a component of the region’s security architecture. The administration of President Donald Trump must take a close look at Taiwan’s role within the region and how it can cooperate on security matters and help strengthen America’s regional leadership. Using Taiwan as a bargaining chip is no way to counter Beijing’s belligerence, and continued exclusion of Taiwan from this important organization is troubling.

Bidding to participate in the UN system has never been easy. Despite the difficulty, years of hard work by Taiwanese civil society and the overseas Taiwanese community have led to increasing international support. If Trump really wants to get tough with China on trade, he should take advantage of the benefits Taiwan can offer. Unlike China, Taiwan has developed into an established democracy. It has a robust civil society with healthy and free independent media. By almost all measures, the self-governing democratic island outperforms the Communist-ruled mainland. Had Trump considered the remarkable achievements of Taiwan, he could have been in a better position to deal with Beijing.

When the world meets to discuss the future of the Earth’s climate, the 23 million people of Taiwan will be without a voice in those talks. Despite this, the country will continue its determined push to combat climate change for its own sake and that of the international community.

This UN General Assembly comes during heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and a worsening humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Let Taiwan join the UN talks so that it can contribute to climate change dialogue as well the many UN peace plans on the global stage.

Furthermore, Taiwan has a permanent population, a defined territory, and a democratically elected government, and thus meets all the criteria for statehood under the Montevideo Convention of 1934. It also has never come under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. The United States should add its vote to those who believe Taiwan has earned a UN seat, as the Taiwanese people are both willing and able to participate in and contribute to the UN.

Taiwan’s strong position in the world is underpinned by its thriving democracy, its economic prowess and its attractive social values. It’s time for Taiwan to be allowed to join the United Nations system.

Kent Wang

Kent Wang is a research fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies (ITAS), a conservative Washington-based think-tank focusing on aspects of US-Taiwan relations, and is broadly interested in the United States-Taiwan-China trilateral equation, as well as in East Asian security architecture.

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