13 May, 2020
10 Min Read
India caught in U.S.-China spat over Taiwan’s status at WHO
As tensions between the U.S. and China rise over the novel coronavirus pandemic, India, which is set to take over as the next Chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s decision-making executive body in May, is faced with a major choice on whether to support a U.S. move to reinstate Taiwan’s observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA) or to China’s opposition to it.
Washington is making efforts to gain support for its move to effect changes at the WHO.
The U.S. has, in the recent past, accused WHO of acting as a “PR agency” for China during the pandemic.
U.S. Senate passed an Act (S.249) to “direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization”, beginning with its decision-making body, the WHA.
The Geneva-based WHA will hold a virtual meeting on May 18 and 19 to elect members to the 34-nation Executive Board.
Officials have confirmed that India’s nominee will take over as the Chairperson, replacing Japan.
India is likely to hold the post for the next three years. The timing of the appointment is crucial, given the worldwide debate on the role of the WHO during the pandemic, and criticism of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
China has also stepped up warnings on any attempt to include or support Taiwan’s role at the WHA, referring to the “One-China” principle as “a widely accepted universal consensus of the international community including the Indian government.”
China's position on Taiwan region’s participation in WHO activities, including WHA is clear and consistent. It must be handled according to the ‘One China’ principle.
World Health Assembly
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
It is the world's highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states.
The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Executive Board is composed of 34 individuals technically qualified in the field of health, each one designated by a Member State elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. Member States are elected for three-year terms.
The Board meets at least twice a year; the main meeting is normally in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly.
The main functions of the Executive Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.
What is Taiwan's relationship with the WHO?
Why is Taiwan's exclusion a problem?
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