WHO internal power play key to Taiwan’s WHA bid: observers

Taipei,  Despite open support from like-minded countries, especially the United States, whether Taiwan is invited to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) will depend on a power play within the World Health Organization (WHO), Taiwanese observers said.

The WHA, decision-making body of the WHO, is scheduled to hold its 73rd session on May 17-21 in Geneva, though it may need to be conducted virtually due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19.

According to Foreign Policy, an American news publication, Washington is seeking the support of key allies to help restore Taiwan’s observer status at the WHA and to co-sign a letter requesting WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus invite Taiwan.

The WHO Secretariat has the discretion to invite any non-WHO member to the WHA, without calling a meeting to vote on the matter.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator, told CNA on Saturday that the key for Taiwan’s bid to participate in WHA this year rests on the internal politics of the WHO, despite growing international support.

“Taiwan will have a better chance to be invited to the WHA if the U.S. increases its maneuvering in the WHO Secretariat,” Lo said.

Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), president of Taiwan’s Prospect Foundation, an independent research institution focused on international affairs, said it is extremely unlikely Tedros will invite Taiwan to attend the WHA, after the Ethiopian microbiologist accused the country of being behind personal and racist attacks against him on April 8.

However, the U.S. may want to break the unspoken rule that Taiwan’s participation requires China’s approval, Lai added.

Lee Che-chuan (李哲全), a senior researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said it is very difficult for Taiwan to be accepted into the WHO due to the “One China” policy observed by many countries, but added that there remains a chance it could be invited to attend the WHA.

The Republic of China, the formal name of Taiwan, was a founding member of the WHO. However, the country was expelled in 1972, a few months after its seat at the United Nations was taken over by the People’s Republic of China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory.

Since then, Taipei has been unable to participate in the WHA, apart from the observer status it held from 2009-2016, when relations with Beijing were relatively warm under the Kuomintang government at that time.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel