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Building an inclusive #UnitedNations with #Taiwan on board

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This July, President Tsai Ing-wen (pictured) of the Republic of China (Taiwan) transited through New York, an icon of diversity and freedom and home to the United Nations, as a preload to her state visit to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean. While meeting with the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Taiwan’s allies, President Tsai reiterated that Taiwan’s 23 million people have the right to participate in the UN system. She also emphasized that Taiwan is committed to joining hands with global partners to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to forge the world we want, and the future we need, writes Taiwan's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Jaushieh Joseph Wu. 

The SDGs form a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future, aiming to guide the world down a sustainable and resilient path with “no one left behind.” In the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development this July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed again the pressing need to accelerate relevant actions. Likewise, he called on nations to advance the “Inclusion Imperative” because “development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive.”

The principles of inclusiveness and leaving no one behind are key to realizing the SDGs. Taiwan, a full-fledged democracy, has made considerable progress in fulfilling the SDGs and has provided assistance to countries in need. Nevertheless, it continues to be barred from participating in related meetings, mechanisms and activities due to political interference. This has seriously undermined the principle of partnership, the foundation of the SDGs, which requires the participation of all countries, stakeholders, and peoples. Taiwan is willing and ready to share its success story and contribute further to the collective effort to achieve the SDGs.

After many years of effort, Taiwan has made great strides in alleviating poverty and achieving zero hunger. Our percentage of low-income households has been reduced to 1.6%. Launched in 1993, the National Health Insurance program now covers 99.8% of the population. In 2018, our waste recycling rate reached 55.69%, our literacy rate 98.8%, and our infant mortality rate 4.2 per 1,000. These figures far surpass SDG standards. The government of Taiwan has further identified six major areas of interest with respect to the SDGs: smart water management, sustainable energy transformation, clean air, sustainable materials management and the circular economy, ecological conservation and green networks, and international partnerships. These areas complement the main theme of the UN High-Level Political Forum 2018, the SDGs, and the 5Ps—people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership—referred to in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In recent years, Taiwan has been providing development assistance to and engaging in cooperation programs with partner countries in the Pacific, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In 2018 alone, Taiwan conducted development projects in SDG areas of interest in 39 countries. We will continue to track international trends and the needs of partner countries to ensure that all operations are aligned with the SDGs.

Considering Taiwan’s robust experience and contributions, it is absurd that Taiwan is barred from sharing experience and critical information that could be used to better coordinate international efforts.

The oft-cited legal basis for excluding Taiwan from the UN is Resolution 2758 (XXVI), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1971. However, the resolution does not address the issue of Taiwan’s representation in the UN, nor does it state that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In fact, Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, part of the PRC. Only Taiwan’s democratically elected government can represent its 23 million people. Unfortunately, the UN continues to misuse and misinterpret the resolution to justify its wrongful exclusion and isolation of Taiwan.

International organizations are created to meet the common objectives of its members, not to serve the interests of just one member. Article 100 of the UN Charter clearly states that “In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization.” Regrettably, the UN sits idly by whenever China seeks to impose its so-called “one China principle” on the UN system. The most recent example involves dozens of NGOs being denied Consultative Status by the UN Economic and Social Council simply because a reference to Taiwan in their documents contradicts China’s demands.

A truly inclusive UN would not leave anyone behind. Today, however, Taiwan passport holders are blocked from entering UN premises for public visits and meetings. Taiwanese journalists and media outlets are also denied accreditation to cover UN meetings. These practices are unjust and discriminatory, and contravene the principle of universality upon which the UN was founded. The UN should make its actions and words congruent, and take immediate action to rectify its exclusionary practices.

This dire situation does not, and never will, intimidate Taiwan. Taiwan is ready, willing and able to contribute. If the UN continues to yield to China’s coercion, rejecting Taiwan’s participation, it will only encourage Beijing’s callousness. Efforts to fulfill the purpose of achieving international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, as stated in Article 1 of the UN Charter, will also be impaired. If the host of nations is serious about promoting inclusion and making development sustainable for all, it should open its doors to Taiwan.

EU

Amid France-Turkey row, UK calls on NATO allies to defend free speech

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Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on NATO allies to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on values of tolerance and free speech, in a veiled rebuke to Turkey which has been calling for a boycott of French goods, writes Estelle Shirbon.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turks to stop buying French goods and has accused France of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda. Britain, France and Turkey are all NATO members.

Erdogan is one of several leaders in the Muslim world angry with France over its response to the murder of teacher Samuel Paty, who showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad as part of a lesson on free speech.

“The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,” Raab said in a statement. “Terrorism can never and should never be justified.

“NATO allies and the wider international community must stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the fundamental values of tolerance and free speech, and we should never give terrorists the gift of dividing us.”

Paty, a teacher at a state-run school in the far outskirts of Paris, was beheaded on 16 October by a man of Chechen origin. The teacher had been criticised by some in the local community for showing his pupils the cartoons because Muslims view images of the prophet as blasphemous.

The French government, backed by large numbers of citizens, saw the beheading as an attack on free speech and said they would defend the right to display the cartoons.

President Emmanuel Macron called Paty a hero and pledged to fight what he described as Islamic separatism, saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France.

The reaction to Paty’s murder has caused widespread anger in Muslim countries, where there have been anti-French demonstrations and calls for boycott. France has warned its citizens in several Muslim-majority countries to take extra security precautions.

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EU

Customs Union: Commission proposes new ‘Single Window' to modernize and streamline customs controls, facilitate trade and improve co-operation

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The European Commission has proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called 'EU Single Window Environment for Customs' aims to enhance co-operation and co-ordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.

The Single Window aims to digitalize and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. The proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level.

It launches an ambitious project to modernize border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies. Economy Comissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Digitalization, globalization and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU's borders.

"To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today's proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all member states to play their part in making it a true success story.”

The proposal, the press release, the Q&A and the factsheet are available online.

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coronavirus

Merkel plans circuit-break lockdown as German virus cases surge

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Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed regional leaders on Wednesday (28 October) to agree to a partial lockdown in Germany which would see restaurants and bars closed but keep schools open, a draft document seen by Reuters said, write and

The drastic measures, to take effect from 4 November, are aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Europe’s biggest economy as the number of new cases hit a record high.

Under the planned new restrictions people would only be able to go out with members of their own and one other household. Fitness studios, discos and cinemas would close, as would theatres, opera houses and concert venues.

Restaurants would only be allowed to offer takeaways, the document said. Shops could remain open if they implement hygiene measures and limit customer numbers.

Merkel will hold a virtual conference with the country’s 16 state premiers later to try to agree the nationwide rules and ditch a confusing patchwork of regional measures.

Almost all regions of Germany face an exponential increase in infection rates, said the document to be discussed, and local health authorities can no longer trace all infections.

“The aim is to interrupt the dynamic of the infection fast so no far-reaching limits on personal contact and economic activity are needed over the Christmas period,” it said.

Germany was widely praised for keeping infection and death rates below those of many of its neighbours in the first phase of the crisis but is now in the midst of a second wave. Cases rose by 14,964 to 464,239 in the last 24 hours, the Robert Koch institute for infectious diseases said on Wednesday.

Deaths jumped by 85 to 10,183, fuelling fears about the health system after Merkel warned on Tuesday it could hit breaking point if infections continue to spiral.

“If we wait until intensive care is full, it is too late,” Health Minister Jens Spahn, who last week tested positive for the virus, told broadcaster SWR.

The government has long insisted it wants to avoid a second blanket lockdown after an initial one this year hit economic growth, with the economy shrinking by a record 9.7% in the second quarter.

While economists expect a rebound for the July-Sept period, they warn that a further lockdown could wipe out growth in the last quarter. Third quarter data is due on 30 October.

Under the plans, the government aims to provide aid to firms hit by closures, including the cultural event sectors.

Only necessary overnight stays would be allowed, according to the document. Brothels, swimming pools, beauty and tattoo studios would close but physiotherapists and hairdressers could stay open. The steps would run until the end of November but are subject to review.

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