Taiwan and the UN
By I-Chun Hsiao, Jerry I-Hsuan Hsiao ¿½¸q«T¡A¿½¸q«Å
While Taiwan is embroiled in a dispute with the Philippines on the seas, another
battle is quietly being waged in the sky.
Since 2009, Taiwan has sought to become an observer to the UN¡¦s International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The 38th session of the ICAO Assembly will take place in Montreal, Canada, from
Sept. 24 to Oct. 4. Given that the ICAO Assembly takes place once every three
years, there is an increased urgency for Taiwan to gain observership status this
Taiwan accounts for less than 1 percent of the Earth¡¦s total land area. However,
it provides air traffic control services to more than 1.2 million flights
annually, and in 2011, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport ranked as the
world¡¦s 10th and 19th largest airport by international cargo volume and number
of international passengers respectively.
Recognizing the vital role Taiwan plays in the global aviation system, Taiwan
has received some support from the international community for its observership
in the ICAO.
For example, on March 14, bills S.579 and H.R. 1151 were introduced in the US
Congress by US Senator Robert Menendez and US Representative Ed Royce to develop
and implement a plan to obtain observer status in the ICAO for Taiwan.
More recently, on May 22, the Irish parliament passed a measure supporting
Taiwan¡¦s participation in international organizations.
Perhaps most importantly, former Chinese president Hu Jintao (JÀAÀÜ) signaled a
willingness to support Taiwan¡¦s participation in the ICAO on the sidelines of
the APEC meeting in September last year.
However, to ensure meaningful participation in the ICAO, Taiwan must actively
seek to make substantive contributions in each and every meeting.
This is crucial because while the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO meets
annually, the ICAO Assembly meets ¡§not less than once in three years.¡¨ The low
meeting frequency means that Taiwan must not be be satisfied merely by being
present at the meetings.
In addition, Taiwan must realize that meaningful participation is not an
automatic consequence of gaining observership.
To illustrate, the rights and responsibilities of the category in which Taiwan
was listed in the WHA ¡X Observers ¡X is not explicitly specified in the WHA¡¦s
Rules of Procedures.
As a result, Taiwan¡¦s participation was subject to political interference from
China, who made sure to curtail Taiwan¡¦s participation at every turn.
In turn, the Taiwanese delegation has found it increasingly difficult to
participate in meetings, technical workshops and other subsidiary bodies of the
Fortunately, the rights and obligations of Observer (the category in which
Taiwan will likely be put in the ICAO) is explicitly regulated in Rule 25 of the
ICAO¡¦s Rules of Procedure.
It states: ¡§Observers may participate without vote in the deliberations of the
Assembly, its commissions and sub-commissions when their meetings are not held
Taiwan must use this ¡§guarantee¡¨ to make its voice heard and presence felt in
Moreover, Taiwan must also define the scope in which its name (eg, Chinese
Taipei) will be used.
This is important because while Taiwan maintained that it was to be called
Chinese Taipei in the WHO and all of its subsidiary bodies, China said that
Taiwan was to be called Chinese Taipei only in the WHA and ¡§Taiwan, province of
China¡¨ in all other instances.
To prevent such controversy, Taiwan should make it clear that its name applies
throughout the ICAO.
Taiwan¡¦s absence from deliberations concerning civil aviation makes it difficult
for Taiwan to become aware, much less implement international standards and
regulations in a timely and appropriate manner.
The international community ought to recognize the safety loophole this poses to
passenger and cargo from Taiwan and around the world, and ensure Taiwan¡¦s
meaningful participation in the ICAO this fall.
I-Chun Hsiao is a graduate student at Harvard University¡¦s Kennedy School of
Government. Jerry I-Hsuan Hsiao is a lecturer in law at the University of