Taiwan on track to meet sustainable goals

THE United Nations is about people, yet the universality of human rights that the UN proclaims does not extend to Taiwan and its 23 million people. This mistreatment dates back to 1971, when our government lost its representation in the organisation and in the intervening decades, Taiwan has met with challenges and isolation with respect to its international situation. Nevertheless, this adversity has propelled us forward and we have not retreated, for we believe very strongly that those who follow the path of virtue can never truly be alone.

Taiwan's experience in such areas as environmental protection, public health and medicine, agriculture, education and ICT has helped our partners develop and grow. We are committed to continuing our interaction and cooperation with our friends and partners, and to maintaining global peace, security and prosperity through mutually beneficial collaboration.

Since 1996, Taiwan has invested over US$6 billion (RM25.15 billion) in international medical and humanitarian aid efforts benefiting millions of people worldwide.

Taiwan is also home to a vibrant civil society whose civic organisations constantly reach out to the world. And whenever disasters strike, rescue workers from Taiwan's non-governmental organisations are right there on the ground, providing assistance, with their devotion and professionalism clear for all to see.

Taiwan is working on its first Voluntary National Review, which will document many of its concrete achievements regarding the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of public health and medicine, for example, in recent years Taiwan has worked alongside a host of other countries to fight such infectious diseases as MERS, Ebola and Zika.

Taiwan has also been promoting a green economy and green energy, aiming to raise the proportion of renewable energy generated for the country's power supply to 20% – five times the current level – by 2025, while also aiming to lower carbon emissions to at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2050.

Holders of Taiwan passports enjoy visa-free travel or other forms of travel convenience to 165 countries and territories, which speaks of the respect that Taiwan's tourists, businesspeople and academics have earned worldwide. Yet, they are unable to take even a single step inside the UN headquarters.

For years, representatives from Taiwan's many non-governmental organisations involved in indigenous, labour, environmental and women's rights have been barred from attending meetings and conferences held at the UN's New York headquarters and at the Palais des Nations in Geneva simply because they hail from Taiwan.

These discriminatory measures put in place by UN bureaucrats – targeted specifically against the people of Taiwan – are inappropriately justified by the invocation and misuse of 1971's General Assembly Resolution 2758 (XXVI). It is important to remember that, while it seated the People's Republic of China in the UN, this resolution did not address the issue of representation of Taiwan and its people in the organisation; much less did it give the PRC the right to represent the people of Taiwan.

With regard to this year's campaign to gain further participation in the UN system, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), based on its steadfast diplomacy and the expectations of its people and following a careful review of all relevant factors, has decided to employ diverse channels and amplify its efforts, so as to clearly convey the heartfelt wishes of the 23 million people of Taiwan. Taiwan's UN campaign coincides with the 72nd UN General Assembly, which will commence on Sept 12 at UN headquarters in New York City, and the General Debate, which will take place from Sept 19 to 25.

Therefore, Taiwan's three main appeals for this year's UN campaign are as follows: first, the UN should take action to improve the situation whereby the 23 million people of Taiwan are excluded from the UN system: Parties concerned should urge the UN to uphold the spirit of universality embedded in its charter. In particular, efforts should be made to let Taiwan take part in an appropriate manner in UN specialised agencies dealing with cross-border issues that require the participation of and joint action by all relevant parties, to effectively respond to common global challenges.

Second, the UN should end the discriminatory measures against Taiwanese that prevent them from entering UN premises to take part in tours or meetings. Parties concerned should demand that the UN secretary-general maintain a neutral position and not serve the political interests of particular member states. Taiwanese should be allowed to enter UN premises when holding valid identification documents issued by their government. The unreasonable practice of demanding Taiwanese show a mainland China travel permit for Taiwan residents should be immediately abolished.

Third, the UN should include Taiwan in meetings, mechanisms, and activities aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals: So as to be achieved by 2030, the SDGs emphasise inclusiveness and cooperation with relevant partners. Through international cooperation and development projects, Taiwan has long been involved in and implemented the Millennium Development Goals and SDGs. The UN should strive to ensure Taiwan's involvement in SDG-related meetings, mechanisms, and activities, so that no one is left behind.

Taiwan is ready and willing to take part in the UN system and interact and collaborate with all countries, so as to assist in safeguarding regional peace, strengthening economic development, and achieving the SDGs. The ROC government urges the UN to take seriously the fundamental right of the 23 million people of Taiwan to participate in the UN system; take action to improve the situation whereby Taiwan is excluded from the UN system; end the discriminatory measures against ROC nationals that prevent them from entering UN premises; and include Taiwan in meetings, mechanisms, and activities aimed at achieving the SDGs.

Liu Bang-Chuan is senior adviser at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com