What you need to know
A Human Rights Defender makes an impassioned plea for the United Nations not to leave Taiwan behind as it pursues its 2030 sustainable development goals.
To: The United Nations,
I come from one of the United Nations' member states, Singapore. I have been living in Taiwan for the past two years.
Living in Taiwan, I have enjoyed a unique experience of democracy in Asia. Taiwan is a relatively young democracy, but it has already developed one of the better referendum models in the world, as Bruno Kaufmann, co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy and board member of the Swiss Democracy Foundation, wrote in March this year.
I also have the privilege of being protected by Taiwan's National Health Insurance, which is extended to United Nations member citizens like me who are working in Taiwan, even though Taiwan is no longer given similar protection by the World Health Organization. Taiwan's social welfare system is easily among the top three in Asia in terms of adequacy, coverage, accessibility and costs to its citizens, and is even better than that of my home country.
I have had the opportunity to study Taiwan’s welfare system firsthand while living here, and to write about it. Coming face to face with the people of Taiwan, I learned that there is much that their patient strength can teach me, and the world. There is a quiet resilience in their continued determination in spite of adversity. It is this adversity that has allowed their democracy to grow in strength.
Taiwan has much to share with the world; its experience overcoming authoritarianism and becoming one of the few countries we can truly call a democracy in Asia is exceptional. Taiwan's democracy might not be perfect, but it is already exemplary in Asia, and its progress needs to be supported.
Unfortunately, politics has undermined Taiwan's status in our world. But Asia is not only represented by Taiwan's neighbor across the Taiwan Strait, which still threatens to occupy Taiwan by force, but by another three billion people – a population twice the size of China's. Asia's other countries also comprise more than half of the continent's GDP, while their combined global output remains more than six times that of China’s.
As the world faces escalating threats against freedoms, from Russian interference in free elections to the panoptic levels of surveillance new technology enables in authoritarian regimes like China, it is all the more important to protect and value the democracy that the Taiwanese hold dear, and which they hope to share with the world.
In light of the times, it is even more important for Taiwan to have the opportunity to play an international role on the world's stage, alongside other democracies, so that together they can continue to help strengthen human rights in our world, a goal that can only be achieved by defending democratic principles.
I have personally been a victim of authoritarianism and am grateful to have had the opportunity to seek refuge in the kind acceptance of the Taiwanese.
Taiwan is a friend, and a protector of human rights. It believes in promoting international peace and security, and sustainable development, all of which are the common goals of the United Nations. I have the great privilege of working with some of the smartest minds in Taiwan on sustainable development, people who are passionate and committed in their work, and who seek to partner with other similarly-minded individuals in other countries.
My friends in Taiwan deserve to be returned to their rightful place on international platforms, and to share their work. We cannot deprive the Taiwanese of their identity as responsible contributing members of the world. At the very least, it is my wish that the citizens of Taiwan are allowed into the United Nations headquarters to share their work and to learn from United Nations bodies like the World Health Organization.
Taiwan's citizens deserve to be respected as equal citizens on the world stage. Just as Taiwan has given 730,000 of us foreigners from more than 160 nationalities a home, I hope that the United Nations can return Taiwan's 23 million citizens to their rightful place alongside its 193 member nations, and in the process uphold their rights and dignity.
As a human rights defender, I am very grateful to the friendship that the United Nations has accorded me. But as a friend of Taiwan, I also hope that they will be accorded that same friendship from the world's most respected international body, because the work that Taiwan has done deserves to be recognized. There is no need to deny the Taiwanese people their right because of historical wrongdoing that was not inflicted by the citizenry but upon them.
It is time to do the right thing. It is time to let the Taiwanese people back into the United Nations and allow them to decide who among them should represent them on the international stage. The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to leave no one behind. Indeed, the good people of Taiwan should not be left behind.
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Editor David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)
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