Sep 15, 2008

Taiwan: NGOs Back Bid to Join UN Agencies

Active ImageRepresentatives from 24 countries send letter to UN General Secretary requesting that he consider Taiwan’s application.

Below is an article published by the :

A group of international NGOs and academics have thrown their weight behind Taiwan’s efforts to join specialised agencies of the UN.

The move comes on the eve of the UN’s 63rd general assembly in New York when Taiwan’s application will be considered.

Representatives of some 24 countries, including Gambia and El Salvador, have sent a letter to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon asking him to consider the request.

The letter asks the UN to “examine the fundamental rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan to participate meaningfully in the activities of the UN specialised agencies.”

The 16 agencies include the World Health Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Taiwan hopes its bid will be successeful when the UN meets next week [September 2008].

Spearheading NGO calls for the island to be allowed to have “meaningful participation” in one or more of the UN’s 16 agencies is Willy Fautre, of the Brussels-based Human Rights Without Frontiers International.

Speaking at a seminar in Brussels on Wednesday [10 September 2008], Fautre said, “Some might say Taiwan’s chances are limited, largely because of continuing opposition from China. But I believe it is very deserving and I fully support its application.”

His comments were echoed by Dick Gupwell, secretary general of the Asian Studies Institute, also based in based Brussels.

He said, “Taiwan has a very strong moral argument and I am in favour of its efforts to join the UN agencies. In particular, it is a scandal that Taiwan is not allowed into the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Taiwan has been continually knocked back in its efforts to join the UN but it is important that it keeps knocking on the door. Providing it can win the support of the larger members of the UN I am sure it will eventually succeed.”

Brigitte Dufour, a human rights lawyer, also backed Taiwan’s campaign which, unlike in previous years, does not seek full UN membership.

Dufour, who has signed an appeal, backed by several NGO organisations supporting the application, said, “The 24 countries which have formally backed Taiwan’s campaign may not have the same political clout as nations like the UK and Germany but that does not mean their views should not be taken on board.

“Allowing Taiwan to participate in some of the UN agencies would symbolically be a very important thing to do.”

Lutgard Lams, of the Brussels Centre for Journalism Studies, commented, “Having lived in Taiwan I have seen for myself the giant strides the country has made in becoming more democratic.”

Zhang Ming-Zhong, the deputy representative at the Taipei Representative Office in Belgium, told the meeting that he hoped for a “positive response” to its request from the UN.

He said, “Taiwan has the world’s 18th largest economy and is the world’s 10th largest maritime nation. For it not to be allowed to participate in, say, the International Maritime Organisation, has created a real weak spot in the global system.

“This adversely affects not just Taiwan and its people but other countries and regions as well.
“Our message is that Taiwan is ready, willing and able to contribute to the international community.”

Taiwan's exclusion from the UN agencies poses a potential risk to the health of people around the world, according to Taiwanese academic Prof Arthur Chen.

Speaking at a Brussels conference this week [September 2008] on Aids and HIV, he said it was "imperative" that Taiwan is allowed to join the WHO to mitigate the potential effects of another outbreak of SARS or avian flu.