May 19, 2006
WHO scheduled to vote on Observer status for Taiwan

Tackling the health worker shortage, strengthening pandemic preparedness and response, HIV/AIDS and polio eradication, are matters which have strong implications for the successful attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are among the main topics up for discussion at next week’s 59th World Health Assembly (WHA), which takes place from May 22-27, 2006, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Apart from the concern over global health issues, another matter trying to make its way onto the WHO agenda will be a vote on whether Taiwan should be given Observer status at the WHO.{{more}}

192 WHO member countries will decide whether Taiwan is being denied the right to access world health information and technical assistance.

It will be Taiwan’s 10th bid for Observer Status. All previous attempts were blocked by China, which resists giving the world’s third largest holder of foreign exchange reserves the right to access the WHO system.

Taiwan argues that a WHO link could help the country battle diseases such as the SARS outbreak, which proved a challenge three years ago, and that it is critical for them to participate in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and WHO technical meetings.

The Taiwanese argue that their “inadequate access to global disease prevention and control networks poses a great threat not just to Taiwan, but to the world community as well.”

But, China argues that Taiwan’s case is political and the health aspects are simply a pretext.

A grouping of countries, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, contend that denying the 23 million people of Taiwan the same privileges to the WHO is an infringement of moral and democratic principles to which the WHO ascribes.