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U.S. calls for transparency in deciding Taiwan's WHO designation

2012/05/17 15:56:56

Washington, May 16 (CNA) The U.S. Department of State has expressed concern about the World Health Organization's (WHO's) lack of transparency in deciding Taiwan's designation in the world health regulatory body.

The department said in a recent report delivered to Congress that the Geneva-based organization held no discussions with member countries before deciding to dub Taiwan as "province of China" in its internal documents.

The report was referring to a letter from Anne Marie Worning, executive director of the office of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, sent last September, that asked its recipients to refer to Taiwan as "Taiwan, province of China" instead of "Chinese Taipei."

Taiwan was admitted to the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- theWHO's decision-making arm -- as an observer in 2009 under the name of Chinese Taipei and has lodged a strongly worded letter of protest to the WHO over the issue of the unilateral change in designation.

In its report to Congress, the State Department said it has pushed the WHO Secretariat to follow the WHA model in resolving the Taiwan name dispute.

The use of "Chinese Taipei" as a name designation for Taiwan follows a model adopted by the World Trade Organization, in which Taiwan uses a title that is acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the report said.

The report also voiced concern about the WHO's many restrictions on Taiwan's efforts to take part in various WHO-sponsored technical activities and consultations.

Citing data provided by the Taiwanese authorities, the report said Taiwan applied to take part in 21 WHO working panels and technical activities in 2011, of which eight were approved, nine were rejected and four received no response.

Although Taiwan has offered on many occasions to contribute to WHO-organized health promotion programs around the world, it has often been denied access to those projects, the report said. For instance, Taiwan offered to provide US$5 million for an H1N1 vaccination program during an outbreak of the new strain of influenza, but the WHO turned down the offer because it would not accept Taiwan's payment terms.

Noting that Taiwan has received a great deal of unfair or unequal treatment from the WHO in recent years, the report said the only progress has been the WHO's consent to Taiwan's attendance as an observer at the annual World Health Assembly between 2009 and 2011.

The report said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius met with her Taiwanese counterpart, Chiu Wen-ta, on the sidelines of the 2011 WHA, during which they discussed a broad range of health-related topics and explored feasible cooperative initiatives under the current framework.

Under its "one China" policy, the report went on, the United States does not support Taiwan's admission to international organizations that require statehood as a requirement for membership, including the United Nations and its special agencies like the WHO.

The report stressed, however, that the U.S. fully supports Taiwan's meaningful participation in the WHA and other international organizations that do not require statehood.

It added that Taiwan's participation in the WHA as an observer should be normalized by allowing it to take part in more activities, including joining the International Food Safety Authorities Network(IFOSAN).

Taiwan's Department of Health received an invitation from the WHOdirector-general April 5 to attend this year's WHA as an observer.Chiu and several legislators will attend the meeting scheduled toopen May 21 in Geneva.

(By Tony Liao and Sofia Wu)