Two-plus-two Debate at the 72nd World Health Assembly

By Hon. Lizzie Nkosi

Minister of Health, Kingdom of Eswatini

20th May 2019

Mr. President, I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Kingdom of Eswatini to request for the inclusion of the supplementary item entitled: “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly as an Observer”, in the agenda of the 72nd Session of the World Health Assembly.

As stated in the Constitution of the World Health Organization, “The objective of the World Health Organization shall be the attainment of the highest possible level of health by all people”.  The mandate of WHO will never be fulfilled if Taiwan’s 23 million people are left behind.

Taiwan is a significant partner in international health and humanitarian aid work, and with its experience and expertise, is committed to help advance global welfare and the right of all people across the world to access health. Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly as an observer is a health matter and an issue of basic human rights. The political pre-conditions set by the PRC on Taiwan’s participation in the WHA are unreasonable and groundless.  The WHO is a neutral and professional body and should not be used as a political arena.

Recent years have seen a string of international outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika Virus, and remember clearly the human toll of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. Globalization has created a clear risk of the cross-border transmission of communicable diseases. Taiwan should not become a gap in the global health system, nor should its people be denied their right to health. Director General Dr. Tedros has rightly said, “The best thing we can do to prevent future outbreaks is to strengthen health systems everywhere”. Leaving any one region out of the global health network creates a gap that undermines global public health and safety.  We should not allow politics to create a gap in the global prevention and control network.

In 2017, Taiwan provided a total of USD 321 million in Official Development Assistance to international society, approximately USD 24 million of which was in the field of medicine and health.  These funds were used to promote a range of health and medical projects designed to meet the needs of partner countries and in line with trends in the development of international aid programs.

Taiwan has an excellent record in implementing UHC, with 99.9% of its population enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program. Medical expenditures account for only 6.3% of GDP and foreign nationals who study, work or reside legally in Taiwan are automatically enrolled in the program, with no one left behind. Taiwan’s experienced in developing universal health coverage could be a valuable reference for many countries, and Taiwan should have opportunity to share its experience in this regard with WHO and other countries around the world.

Mr. President, in light of these considerations, the Kingdom of Eswatini would like to reiterate our support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, including the observership in the World Health Assembly, based on the principles of professionalism, pragmatism and leaving no one behind.

I thank you.

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