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    • 2014/48

    Each year, Taiwan spends more than US$44 million on providing technical and medical assistance around the globe. As of December 2006, Taiwan had stationed 34 technical missions which carried out 84 cooperation projects in 29 countries. Taiwanese medical teams are currently stationed in Burkina Faso, and São Tomé and Príncipe. In 2006 alone, Taiwan dispatched its mobile medical missions to 12 countries, including countries without diplomatic ties like Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Taiwan’s vibrant NGO sector has also made substantial contributions to the same end.

    In the aftermath of the severe earthquake that hit Indonesia and the deadly tsunami that devastated neighboring countries, including Thailand, the Maldives, the Seychelles Islands and even Madagascar, the government of Taiwan donated US$50 million to assist the affected countries with their relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work. Taiwan’s private sector also collected donations worth more than US$150 million. Besides, only 2 days after a powerful magnitude 8 earthquake struck the Republic of Peru on Aug. 15 2007, the government of Taiwan also donated US$100,000 for disaster relief.

    In addition, Taiwan has at times sent disease prevention teams abroad in collaboration with international humanitarian relief efforts. Its team for post-tsunami relief in South Asia is an example. Taiwan is also engaged in several international disease prevention and control projects, including an operational plan for malaria control in São Tomé and Príncipe, the establishment of Asia's largest flavivirus study center in Taiwan to fight Dengue Fever/DHF outbreaks, and HIV/AIDS control projects in Chad, Malawi and Haiti. Most recently, Taiwan has sent a team of five experts to São Tomé and Príncipe to help fight cholera. Without doubt, Taiwan is more than willing to participate in and contribute to global disease prevention and control efforts.

    Taiwan will continue to promote bilateral and multilateral health cooperation projects to demonstrate to the international community that it is willing and able to contribute to international health cooperation, and to global disease prevention and control networks. Among other things, Taiwan has established Taiwan International Health Action (TaiwanIHA) in 2006 to integrate its professional expertise, facilities and funding with a view to assisting the development of the medical and health care infrastructure in developing countries, and to providing more humanitarian and medical relief assistance to countries in need. For example, after learning a severe earthquake hit the Republic of Peru on 15 August, 2007, TaiwanIHA immediately organized a medical relief team and arrived in Peru on Aug. 17. Taiwan’s team was the first foreign medical group to arrive in Pisco, the hardest hit city of Peru.

    In addition to its bid for WHO membership, Taiwan strives for meaningful participation in the WHO, including attending more WHO technical meetings in a dignified and systematic manner. Taiwan also seeks to establish partnership with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and other international disease prevention and control mechanisms, and to participate in the IHR 2005 mechanism in an appropriate capacity.

    "Disease recognizes no borders." Certainly, the world cannot afford to allow a gap in the global disease prevention and control network. As the threat of avian influenza attracts serious attention in the international community, it is becoming more imperative and more urgent than ever to formally incorporate Taiwan into the WHO system. Taiwan's participation in the WHO is not only necessary for the protection of the health rights of the 23 million people in Taiwan, but also for the completeness of the global disease prevention and control mechanisms. This is not a political issue, but an issue concerning human rights, humanity and health.

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    Due to China's intransigent opposition and other countries' fears of China's retaliation, Taiwan has not made substantial progress in its UN bid. In addition, cross-strait relations in recent years have remained strained. China has consistently refused to give up using military force against Taiwan and has deployed tactical missiles along its coast aimed at Taiwan. Moreover, China uses every possible means to block and undermine Taiwan in an attempt to deprive Taiwan of international space. China has also bullied other nations and international organizations into accepting that Taiwan is one of its provinces, which severely erodes the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and threatens Taiwan’s existence and security.
    However, the determination and confidence of Taiwan's 23 million people to participate in the UN and its specialized agencies can never be suppressed. According to the Executive Yuan’s Mainland Affairs Council, nearly 80% of respondents to various public opinion polls indicated that they hope to see Taiwan join the UN. As a democratic country, the government of Taiwan has to listen to what its people wish for. While continuing to seek the opportunity to reconcile and cooperate with China on an equal footing, Taiwan will continuously endeavor to obtain more understanding and support from the international community in its UN bid.

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    Since its establishment in 1945, the UN has become a universal organization with much influence on international affairs. The activities organized by the UN are therefore of concern to the government and people of Taiwan since they affect the rights of the people of Taiwan and its sustainable development. Therefore, Taiwan must make every effort to participate in the UN.

    Taiwan’s UN membership application in 2007 reflects the common will and determination of its 23 million people. Through this application, Taiwan not only hopes to give prominence to the objective fact that Taiwan is not a part of China, but also wants to bring the international community’s attention to the issue of representation of the 23 million people of Taiwan in the United Nations.

    Taiwan currently ranks as the world’s 18th largest economy, the 16th largest trading nation and stands as one of the top 20 sources of foreign investment. Taiwan’s democratic achievements are also recognized worldwide, and can serve as a model for developing countries. There is no doubt that Taiwan has become an important player in the international community. UN specialized agencies cover a variety of areas closely related to the well-being of humankind, including economics, culture, education, health, social affairs, communication, environmental protection, human rights, drug control, anti-terrorism, etc. In this era of globalization, many issues can only be effectively resolved through the collaboration of all nations. No country should be excluded from important matters that influence the development and well-being of all humankind. The United Nations, as the most important forum dealing with global issues, should accept Taiwan as a full member in order to avoid creating a weak link in the global collaborative network.

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    Taiwan has been actively participating in regional inter-governmental financial organizations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN). Among these, Taiwan is a member of the ADB, CABEI and SEACEN. In addition, Taiwan has maintained close and substantial working relationships with the EBRD and the IDB through various joint projects and by participating in their annual meetings.

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    Taiwan's unique geographic location has made it vulnerable to an outbreak of avian influenza. Worse still, inadequate access to the WHO has further aggravated Taiwan's plight and resulted in a critical gap in the international disease prevention and control network. The following statistics demonstrate Taiwan's pivotal status in the international efforts to fight avian influenza and, therefore, Taiwan should not be excluded from this network:

    (1) Taiwan is one of the most important transportation hubs in the Western Pacific region. The Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR) covers 13 major international flight routes and four domestic routes. In 2007, it provided approximately 421,479 controlled flight services to 27.06 million passengers.

    (2) The volume of visitor exchange between Taiwan and China has grown exponentially. The number of outbound visitors to China reached 4.2 million in 2007, while the number of inbound visitors from China was approximately 268,447. However, the Chinese government's negligence and even cover-up of rising human cases of avian influenza there has cast a shadow over Taiwan's health security.

    (3) Taiwan has a huge number of visitors and a great volume of cargo exchange with Southeast Asian countries. There are more than 358,000 foreign workers from Southeast Asia working in Taiwan. On top of that, in 2007, the number of visits by people from Taiwan to Southeast Asian countries exceeded 1.32 million, while the number of visits by people from Southeast Asian countries to Taiwan was approximately 700,287.

    (4) Taiwan is an important transit point or habitat for migratory birds. Approximately 1.25 million migratory birds from 351 species pass through Taiwan annually or inhabit Taiwan in the winter season.

    In 2004, Taiwan completed a plan of national preparedness for a potential outbreak of pandemic influenza. Much to our regret, Taiwan's exclusion from the international disease prevention and control network dampens Taiwan's effectiveness in this area. To protect the health rights of the people of Taiwan, and to contribute to international cooperation in disease prevention and control, Taiwan has been actively seeking participation in relevant meetings and international disease prevention networks under the aegis of the WHO, such as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), the Global Influenza Program (GIP) and the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza (IPAPI). To this end, it is imperative for the international community to help integrate Taiwan into the WHO system.