OPINION: by Vanessa ShihNews Weekly
Taiwan's olive-branch to Beijing
, October 11, 2008
Mainland China is blocking Taiwan's latest bid to participate in UN specialised agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). This could have dire health consequences for the world, warns Taiwanese government spokesperson, Vanessa Shih.As the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly gets underway this week, it is the hope of the people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can, in the Olympic spirit of equality and mutual respect, cooperate within the United Nations to advance the well-being of all.
Over the past six decades, various historical factors have resulted in the separate development of the societies on both sides of the strait, and the exclusion of Taiwan from participation in the United Nations since 1971. Consequently, the peoples of Taiwan and mainland China have been deprived of opportunities to cooperate in the international arena so as to build mutual trust and benefit the world as a whole.Forward-looking
We must stop wasting our resources on confrontation and create spaces in which we can join forces to realise the universal values and compassion that underpin the Olympics as well as operations of UN agencies. Since the ROC administration of President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, it has embraced a forward-looking, pragmatic attitude to promote friendship and understanding across the Taiwan Strait. To relax cross-strait tensions, it has taken steps to replace antagonism with openness, hostility with amity.
In June, the new administration took the lead in resuming systematic talks between Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and its mainland Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. From their negotiations came the historic inauguration of direct, weekly cross-strait charter flights, for the first time bringing tourists from mainland China to Taiwan. This development is beneficial to people on both sides of the strait and is conducive to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
We hope that the two sides can continue working to shelve disputes and develop mutual respect and understanding, not only in cross-strait relations but in our interactions in the international community, thereby replacing zero-sum competition with win-win collaboration. The consequences of the lack of such collaboration are poignantly illustrated by the great suffering caused by the international SARS (secure acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic of 2003, which afflicted both Taiwan and mainland China and is still vivid in the memories of our peoples. In Taiwan, the disaster was greatly exacerbated by our inability to interact freely and directly with the UN World Health Organization.
It is evident, therefore, that our participation in international forums that formulate plans of action to address concerns of global importance is fundamentally a humanitarian issue, concerning the lives, health and dignity of everyone. In view of this reality, we sincerely hope that all members of the international community will realise the need for Taiwan's meaningful participation in the various UN specialised agencies, and that the General Assembly will encourage them to fulfil this need.
In seeking to participate in UN activities, it is not our intention to challenge mainland China's representation in that world body. As an expression of our desire to promote fruitful interaction between our people and with people the world over, the government of the Republic of China has temporarily set aside the issue of membership in UN organisations and is focusing instead on advancing human welfare through our participation in them.
In his May 20 inaugural address, President Ma Ying-jeou stated, "Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move forward with confidence." In other words, making progress in cross-strait relations and gaining more space for Taiwan internationally are two sides of the same coin.Cooperation
Through our participation in the functional organisations of the United Nations, we can establish a platform for cooperation with mainland China in advancing the cause not only of cross-strait friendship but of international peace and prosperity, thereby concretely realising the ideal of the Beijing Olympics motto, "One World, One Dream".- Vanessa Shih is a government spokewoman for the Republic of China (Taiwan).