Taiwan Editorial Archive

UN Bid: Determined and Pragmatic

From the Taiwan Review

After two referendums on United Nations membership failed to receive enough voter support to pass in March due to domestic party politics, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is assessing the Republic of China's (ROC) options for joining the world body. At the same time, the government is also ensuring that the nation continues to shoulder its responsibilities as a global citizen.

The ROC was a founding member of the UN, but lost its seat in 1971 when recognition was switched to mainland China. In 1993, the government began to promote the goal of joining the UN. Today, the Ma administration's white paper guiding the quest for membership in the UN and other international organizations specifically mentions the importance of becoming a member of the World Health Organization, as well as major economic organizations including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

President Ma remarked in July that because both referendums had failed in March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was evaluating new approaches for promoting Taiwan's UN bid. The white paper also suggests pursuing observer status in world organizations before seeking full membership. As for the politically charged issue of which name Taiwan should use in its membership bids, the document emphasizes selecting a pragmatic name that also protects the nation's dignity.

The continued pursuit of membership in international organizations is critical because Taiwan cannot afford to become marginalized internationally, especially in light of the accelerating trend toward globalization. However, from the perspective of these world bodies, Taiwan's lack of membership should stand out as a glaring omission because of the nation's large economy, democratic government, vital geographic location and foreign aid programs.

To its credit, even though Taiwan has not been allowed to enter the UN, many government policies adhere to UN standards. As Ma said in his inaugural address, 'Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village... As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons.'

For example, in May Ma laid out a plan to reduce Taiwan's carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. The plan targets cutting greenhouse gases to the 2000 level by 2025 and reducing them to half of the 2000 level by 2050. This is a courageous step because the lack of UN membership prevents the nation's participation in the Kyoto Protocol.

Taiwan also upholds UN standards in the area of women's rights. The UN's annual Human Development Report measures women's participation in politics, the economy and decision-making in member nations. As Taiwan is not a UN member, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) compiles its own statistics based on UN standards and then ranks Taiwan among other countries accordingly. For 2007, DGBAS figures showed that Taiwan ranked 19th in the world in terms of women's empowerment.

Despite its lack of UN membership, Taiwan has also played a major part in international relief efforts. To help survivors of May's huge earthquake in mainland China's Sichuan province, Taiwan has contributed more financial aid than any other nation.

Although the second passage of the Preamble to the UN Charter emphasizes 'the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,' the UN's position on Taiwan effectively means that the rights of Taiwanese are 'less equal' than those of people in other nations. The government will do its part to prepare a membership bid that will secure widespread domestic and international acceptance. After that, it will be up to the UN to adhere to its own lofty ideals.

This editorial appears in the September 1, 2008 issue of Taiwan Review online.