Why the international community and UN must embrace Taiwan
Taiwan is a model of democracy. It is independent. It’s not a part of PRC. And it has managed Covid-19 successfullyUpdated: Aug 24, 2020, 20:50 IST
In 2020, the world has been hit by an unprecedented public health crisis, with the effects of Covid-19 being felt across every aspect of people’s lives. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations (UN). Now more than ever, the global community must make a concerted effort to forge the better and more sustainable future called for by UN and its member-states. Taiwan is ready, willing and able to be a part of these efforts.
With less than 500 confirmed cases and seven deaths, Taiwan has defied predictions and successfully contained the pandemic. This has all come in no small part due to Taiwan’s quick response measures, including the establishment of a Central Epidemic Command Centre, the implementation of stringent border controls and quarantine procedures, and transparent information-sharing. And after making sure we had enough supplies to look after our people, we started providing medical equipment and supplies to other countries in serious need.
By the end of June, Taiwan had donated 51 million surgical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 600,000 isolation gowns, 35,000 forehead thermometers, and other medical material to more than 80 countries, including India, the United States (US), Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, and various European nations. We have also joined forces with like-minded democracies to explore the development of rapid test kits, medicines, and vaccines. Working together for the greater good is how the world will defeat Covid-19.
In the Declaration on the Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of UN, governments and heads of States acknowledged that only by working together in solidarity can we end the pandemic and effectively tackle its consequences. They thus pledged to make UN more inclusive and to leave no one behind as the world looks to recover from the pandemic.
Similarly, in July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that networked, inclusive, and effective multilateralism would aid global efforts to promote recovery and the continued implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We could not agree more. However, this vision seems lacking when Taiwan — one of the world’s model democracies and a success story in containing the current pandemic — continues to be barred from taking part in and exchanging experiences and information with UN system. Not having Taiwan’s input in UN is a loss to the global community, and will hamper member-states’ efforts to regain normalcy and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in full and on time.
Even as the pandemic has made the international community aware of Taiwan’s unjust and discriminatory exclusion from the World Health Organization and the UN system, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to press UN to use an erroneous interpretation of the 1971 UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 (XXVI) as the legal basis for blocking Taiwan.
The fact is that this resolution does not address the issue of Taiwan’s representation in UN, nor does it state that Taiwan is part of PRC. In fact, Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, a part of the PRC. Our president and legislature are directly elected by the people of Taiwan. Moreover, border controls instituted during the pandemic offer further evidence to counter PRC’s false claims. UN must recognise that only Taiwan’s democratically-elected government can represent its 23.5 million people; PRC has no right to speak on Taiwan’s behalf.
Unfortunately, the 23.5 million people of Taiwan are denied any access to UN premises. Taiwanese journalists and media outlets are also denied accreditation to cover UN meetings. This discriminatory policy stems from the wrongful claims of and pressure from an authoritarian state, and contravenes the principle of universality and equality upon which UN was founded.
The UN Charter begins with “We the peoples of the United Nations determined . . . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights . . . [and] the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. The ideal of upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms for all laid out in this text must not remain empty words. As it looks ahead to the next 75 years, it is never too late for the UN to welcome Taiwan’s participation.
Dr Jaushieh Joseph Wu is Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)
The views expressed are personal