Taiwan: Welcomed to the UN World Health Assembly
Below is an article published by The Parliament:
The international community has welcomed the inclusion of Taiwan in this year's  World Health Assembly (WHA).
It is the first time the country has been allowed to participate in a specialized agency of the United Nations for almost four decades.
Its participation in the 62nd annual WHA in Geneva, which officially opened on Monday [18 May], follows intense lobbying by Taiwanese officials.
The WHA is the key decision-making body of the World Health Organisation which is spearheading the global response to the outbreak of the potentially deadly swine fever virus.
Speaking on Monday [18 may 2009], David Benton, CEO of the Geneva-based International Council of Nurses, welcomed the decision to grant Taiwan observership status under the name "Chinese Taipei" this year, saying, "This is a positive move and one which the international community will applaud.
"It is particularly welcome at the present time when all contributions to the response to the outbreak of the swine fever virus must be welcomed."
His comments were echoed by several of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, who are in Geneva for the meeting, attended by nearly 3,000 health ministers, medical experts and NGOs from around the world.
Rigoberto Vielman, Paraguay's ambassador in Geneva, said it was a "welcome development."
"No-one should be excluded from efforts to tackle things like swine fever, let alone a country as significant as Taiwan, which has a population of some 23 million people and is one of the world's most important economic and trading countries."
Amenta Matthew, health minister of the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific, said, "Of course, I welcome this move and hope that, eventually, it will lead to full membership of the WHO for Taiwan."
Speaking on the eve of the conference, Taiwan's health minister Yeh Ching-chuan, said, "Public health experts in Taiwan have long dreamt of the day that Taiwan returns to the WHO to contribute directly and effectively to the international health effort.
"Now this dream has been realized and Taiwan can strive alongside each nation in that world body to promote the health of people around the world."
The minister, who was visibly moved by Taiwan's participation, told this website on Monday [18 May 2009] the WHO decision would enable Taiwan to "play a full and active role" in helping to tackle the outbreak of swine fever and other serious health issues.
Further comment came from Hsieh Wu-chiao, director general of Taiwan's Geneva Office, who described his country's participation in this year's event as "momentous."
"It was back in 1997 that Taiwan first applied for WHA observership. At the time most WHO members did not understand why Taiwan wanted or needed to be an observer. We can be proud we did not give in to those criticisms and that WHO member states gradually came to understand the necessity of Taiwan's participation.
"As a result, we not only have the support of various professional groups but have even garnered the firm support of the EU, the US and Japan," he said.
A new editorial in the Wall Street Journal said the move means Taiwan can take part in information-sharing groups such as the WHO's Global Outbreak Alert Response Network and the Food Safety Network.
"Taiwan has more than earned its WHO participation," it said.
The WHO is a UN agency which was originally established to strengthen national health systems and to help prevent and control epidemics.
Inevitably, its role has evolved over the past 50 yeas and in recent years the Geneva-based organization has once again concentrated its energies on fighting diseases and stepped up its efforts to establish more effective vaccination programmes.
Meanwhile, police were called to break up a small but noisy demonstration by Taiwanese pro-independence students in Geneva on Sunday [17 May 2009]. The students heckled Taiwan's health minister who was attending a meeting at the time. They are angry at the Taiwan government's "softly, softly" approach to relations with mainland China.