May 19, 2020
U.S. Statement on Taiwan's Participation at the World Health Assembly
The United States is deeply disappointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) decision to exclude Taiwan from the World Health Assembly (WHA).
The United States and Taiwan have more than 20 years of robust public health and biomedical research cooperation, addressing topics as wide-ranging as the SARS outbreak response and regional trainings for Zika diagnostic tools, burn medicine, cancer research, and dengue vaccine research. This cooperation has extended to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which we have exchanged transparent, accurate and timely information. Failures of global information sharing mean global gaps in controlling and preventing the spread of this deadly disease.
The world is facing the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 together. All communities with a stake in global health should be able to contribute to and benefit from the WHO's efforts. Taiwan has shown the world it is a capable, responsible and willing stakeholder in global health with extensive testing and contact tracing, social distancing measures, medical countermeasure development, and border control and quarantine policy. The United States has adapted lessons learned from the global community, including Taiwan, to improve our response and in return, shared our expertise globally. Now, more than ever, global health partnerships are crucial. We must recognize Taiwan's successful COVID-19 response and their continued efforts to assist other countries with personal protective equipment donations and technical assistance. The world should admire and learn from Taiwan's contributions to combating this pandemic.
The United States is deeply concerned that the WHO—in a break with eight years of precedent—did not invite Taiwan to observe the 70th WHA in May 2017, the 71st WHA in May 2018, the 72nd WHA in May 2019, and now, the 73rd WHA in May 2020. This systematic exclusion should not occur, especially now with COVID-19. The world is facing the unprecedented challenge of a pandemic together. All communities with a stake in global health should be able to contribute and benefit from the WHO's efforts.
Taiwan must be welcomed to contribute to, not be excluded from, WHO meetings. This is extremely concerning especially when this pandemic is partly aggravated by a lack of transparent information sharing and inclusion of all necessary stakeholders in global health. The WHO's decision to exclude Taiwan from this year's WHA is a significant departure from WHO's commitment to fostering an inclusive approach to international health cooperation. Taiwan's isolation from the critical governing body of the WHA is a serious public health and safety concern not only to the island's 23 million people but to the world. The WHO must put public health above politics.
The United States strongly urges the WHO to return to the practice of inviting Taiwan to participate as an Observer to the WHA. The exclusion of Taiwan from the WHA must not continue. The United States also urges the WHO to systematically engage with Taiwan health experts on COVID-19 and beyond. The global community must learn from Taiwan's experience from COVID-19 and do more to include them.
For the sake of global health, the United States expects, and the world should demand, that the WHO commit to an inclusive approach and seriously consider our concerns and requests.