On 3 February, Amnesty International sent a letter to the Director General of the WHO to show our concerns on the rights to health and rights to information of the people in Taiwan, since the representatives of Taiwan has been excluded from most COVID-19 related meeting and information from the WHO. Amnesty International urged the WHO to invite representatives from Taiwan to join all relevant the WHO meetings related to the prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 outbreak. We regret that, to date, Amnesty International has not received any response from the WHO until now.
We must again point out that the failure by the WHO to protect and respect the rights to health and information of all people in Taiwan, including Taiwanese, foreigners, migrants including migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, makes the work of curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the region much more difficult and puts people’s lives at risk.
The WHO’s Constitution acknowledges that “[t]he enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”. The right to health is contained in several international human rights instruments, including Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The right to health includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas concerning health issues, and the “prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases”.
All affected individuals and communities are entitled to easy, accessible, timely and meaningful information concerning the nature and level of the health threat, the possible measures to be taken to mitigate risks, early warning information of possible future consequences and information on ongoing response efforts. The right to health further includes the obligation to provide international cooperation and assistance. One key aspect of the obligation of international cooperation is for states to share information, in a transparent and effective way, including to key stakeholders, about the risks and spread of COVID-19, as well as preventive and treatment options. It is equally important to ensure a coordinated global response, which involves the participation of all key stakeholders and affected parties. Where assistance is provided through an international organization, such as the WHO, its member states have an obligation to take whatever measures they can to ensure that its policies and decisions are in conformity with the states’ human rights obligations.
No one should be left behind as we face the spread of COVID-19. The WHO’s failure to address and remedy the Taiwan’s lack of access to its essential channels for timely and accurate public health information is deeply regrettable. We hereby call attention to the WHO and the international community to jointly protect and respect the human rights of people in Taiwan, especially rights of health and information which should be protected by the WHO.