Larry [Diamond], many thanks for hosting this important event. It was an honor to be at Hoover a number of years ago and am pleased to return today, albeit virtually.
I lead the bureau at the U.S. State Department that covers issues ranging from the depths of the oceans to the vastness of space, right at the intersection of diplomacy and science. If we ever needed proof of the importance of that work, current events have provided it to us.
Our Office of International Health and Biodefense is dedicated to combating biothreats and outbreaks of infectious disease through diplomacy. We lead the State Department’s efforts to respond to infectious diseases, and help prevent, detect, and prepare for future outbreaks. In this context, today’s topic is both timely and significant.
Taiwan is a democracy that respects basic human rights, enjoys a strong rule of law, and embraces transparency. That formula has made the people on Taiwan more nimble, innovative, and successful in combating international health threats.
This is further proof that Taiwan takes its role as a member of the international community seriously. We have seen this before, including when Taiwan offered $1 million to the World Health Organization to help fight Ebola, an offer which unfortunately the WHO did not accept.
As others have noted, Taiwan built on its experience with SARS in 2003. Realizing the effects of SARS were worsened by the lack of a central decision-making body during a health crisis, Taiwan innovatively established a central health command center for large outbreak response in 2004, which enabled rapid response to new outbreaks.
The United States values its cooperation with Taiwan on health issues, especially through the U.S.-Taiwan Global Cooperation and Training Framework under the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, led by Representative Stanley Kao, in the United States. Launched in 2015, the framework is the premier platform where the United States, Taiwan, and like-minded partners work jointly to provide regional training on shared priorities.
Diseases do not respect borders or political systems. Global health security is vital, and the United States recognizes this. The first pillar of our National Security Strategy specifically identifies combating biological threats and pandemics as a cornerstone of U.S. national security.
We are committed to helping countries prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. Through the Global Health Security Agenda, a multilateral effort of nearly 70 countries, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders, the United States is helping partner governments and authorities strengthen public health systems and reduce the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.
U.S. investments have strengthened public health labs across 15 countries in Asia and Africa, improving their ability to detect and respond to zoonotic diseases that spill over from animals to people.
Taiwan has clearly proven that it is not only possible, but also imperative, for us to respect and defend human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law when addressing global health threats.
Thank you very much.