20130531 Taiwan and the UN aviation body
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Taiwan and the UN aviation body

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 fall.

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 WHO.

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 in private.¡¨

Taiwan must use this ¡§guarantee¡¨ to make its voice heard and presence felt in the ICAO.

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 Liverpool.

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