Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly
May 19, 2023
Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly

by R. T. Luke V. Browne

As a former Minister of Health, I am calling for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the upcoming 76th edition of the World Health Assembly (WHA) which is scheduled to start this Sunday as an Observer. Taiwan was shut out of this very important global health forum in 2017 for political reasons associated with its policy on its relationship with the People’s Republic of China. This is not right and it is not in the best interest of the WHA, health in Taiwan, global health, Universal Health Coverage or Health for All.

Taiwan is a nation of over 23 million people that is responsible for the administration of its own affairs. How can it be appropriate for the legitimate representatives of 23 million people to be shut out of this super significant annual public health conference?

Taiwan has an outstanding healthcare system. 98% of its citizens are covered by national health insurance (NHI) as a result of its implementation of WHO recommendations on universal health coverage. This East Asian health powerhouse received commendations from the international community for an exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic that harnessed artificial intelligence and other modern capabilities as well as digital tools in the design and implementation of special anti-pandemic measures to manage the health situation within its borders. Taiwan was successful in minimising the adverse effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the health and welfare of its population.

Importantly, Taiwan has been a model in terms of international cooperation for health, development and humanitarian assistance. How can we sustain the exclusion of a global healthcare leader from the World Health Assembly? This sounds crazy to me. I repeat that this is not in the best interest of the World Health Assembly, health in Taiwan, global health, Universal Health Coverage or Health for All.

Surely, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we cannot afford to have any gaps in the global health network. We must work together for best results. Our fate and fortunes are tied together.
In the language of the Constitution of the WHO, every human being has the fundamental right to enjoy the highest standard of health… without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” [emphasis added] The people who live in Taiwan must not be denied this right. The people who live in the world must not be denied this right.

I hope that good sense and judgment prevail and that Taiwan is invited to the World Health Assembly as an Observer. This would be a very good demonstration of our commitment to Health for All. The WHO needs Taiwan. Taiwan needs the WHO. We need each other in order to achieve our healthcare goals. Let Taiwan into the WHA.