Collaborative Governance in Taiwan’s Covid-19 Pandemic Response

Lessons Learned From a Human Rights Perspective

Published: March 2023

Taiwan’s pandemic governance has been widely praised for its transparent, collaborative nature in which central and local government agencies worked with civil society to deal with COVID-19. With low case numbers and death counts, Taiwan was able to avoid stringent measures such as lockdowns and school and workplace closings for much of the pandemic. Unlike many other countries in the region, Taiwan was also careful not to impose a state of emergency. Instead, it passed the COVID-19 Special Act in line with the constitution and legislative procedures. These were impressive achievements given that the pandemic generally concentrated greater executive powers in governments worldwide, leading to widespread infringements of civil liberties.

Using a rights-based analysis that assesses Taiwan’s pandemic governance in three areas – transparency, accountability, and collaboration – this report found multiple good, collaborative practices that contributed to the response effectiveness. These included:

  1. the use of daily press conferences and social media channels to communicate with the press and public;
  2. central/local government coordination with the private sector and civil society on manufacturing masks, setting up quarantine services, procuring vaccines, and combating misinformation;
  3. government cooperation with the civic tech community to scale up a mask map to help people find pharmacies where masks were available, and with fact-checking organizations to counter misinformation regarding the pandemic; and
  4. local governments working together with groups providing services to the homeless and other vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic, among other examples.

While these practices highlight Taiwan’s collaborative approach, the report also found several gaps: government collaboration and consultation with civil society was more ad hoc than advertised, and some instances of government overreach, accountability, and responsiveness to human rights concerns were not taken seriously. Moreover, collaborative governance was more limited in the second pharmaceutical phase that started after an outbreak in May 2021. This phase saw greater social and political divisions as the administration came under criticism for not procuring and developing vaccines fast enough to prepare the population. These divisions were exacerbated by China’s role in complicating vaccine procurement and weakened society’s cooperation with and trust in the government, which was evident in the first phase.

This report, put together with support from ICNL, highlights ways Taiwan can build on its successful approaches from phase one and further institutionalize its collaborative governance approach. The report outlines how strengthening government engagement with civil society and communities will help to address concerns around human rights, discrimination, and transparency and further ensure Taiwan’s status as a leader in rights-respecting public health governance.

Taiwan Covid-19 Response; photo credit Veseh via

Written by Shawn Shieh (谢世宏), Ph.D.

Shawn Shieh is the Founder and Director of Social Innovations Advisory, Ltd., a contributor to Rights CoLab, and maintains the blog NGOs in China