U.N.: Sanc­tions dis­rupt aid to North Korea

Hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief needed by mil­lions, the agency says.

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - By Eric Tal­madge

In­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on North Korea are tak­ing a se­ri­ous toll on hu­man­i­tar­ian aid ac­tiv­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to a United Na­tions-led re­port.

The re­port is­sued this week by the U.N.’s se­nior res­i­dent of­fi­cial in Py­ongyang said sanc­tions are in­ad­ver­tently hin­der­ing le­git­i­mate op­er­a­tions on the ground and have in­di­rectly con­trib­uted to a “rad­i­cal de­cline” in do­na­tions it said are badly needed by mil­lions of North Korean women and chil­dren.

It said “chronic food in­se­cu­rity, early child­hood mal­nu­tri­tion and nu­tri­tion in­se­cu­rity” con­tinue to be wide­spread in the North, which it noted ranked 98th out of 118 coun­tries in the 2016 Global Hunger In­dex.

More than 10 mil­lion peo­ple — or about 41 per­cent of the North Korean pop­u­la­tion — are un­der­nour­ished, it said.

It called for $114 mil­lion in do­na­tions.

That could be a hard sell. Crit­ics have long ar­gued that aid to the North in ef­fect serves to prop up the gov­ern­ment by al­low­ing it to fo­cus more of its lim­ited re­sources on build­ing nu­clear weapons, fund­ing the coun­try’s mil­lion-man army or en­rich­ing the rul­ing elite, rather than spend­ing on the seg­ments of its pop­u­la­tion most need. The re­port ac­knowl­edged such con­cerns have made get­ting do­na­tions dif­fi­cult.

“The Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea is in the midst of a pro­tracted, en­trenched hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion largely for­got­ten or over­looked by the rest of the world,” Ta­pan Mishra, who as res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor in Py­ongyang is re­spon­si­ble for U.N. de­vel­op­ment and other ac­tiv­i­ties in the North, wrote in the re­port’s in­tro­duc­tion. “I ap­peal to donors not to let po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions get in the way of pro­vid­ing con­tin­ued sup­port for hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and re­lief.”

The re­port also noted sanc­tions are mak­ing it harder to con­duct aid ac­tiv­i­ties.

“While in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions im­posed on DPRK clearly ex­empt hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tiv­i­ties, they have un­in­ten­tion­ally caused dis­rup­tions to hu­man­i­tar­ian op­er­a­tions,” it said.

In par­tic­u­lar, it said the “reg­u­lar dis­rup­tion” of bank­ing chan­nels since 2013 has made it dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble to trans­fer funds into the coun­try. It also cited the ad­di­tional re­quire­ments for li­censes and the time it takes to de­ter­mine what is or is not a po­ten­tial sanc­tions’ vi­o­la­tion as the cause of con­sid­er­able de­lays that have forced agen­cies to “repri­or­i­tize” their aid ac­tiv­i­ties. It said the sanc­tions also have the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect of mak­ing donors re­luc­tant to pro­vide funds for projects in the North.

“This is re­flected in the rad­i­cal de­cline in donor fund­ing since 2012,” it said. “As a re­sult, agen­cies have been forced to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the as­sis­tance they pro­vide ... crit­i­cal needs of some of the most vul­ner­a­ble have not been met. More pre­dictable fund­ing is ur­gently re­quired.”

Like pre­vi­ous years, the aid pri­or­i­ties for 2017 are to im­prove nu­tri­tion, par­tic­u­larly for preg­nant and breast-feed­ing women, and chil­dren un­der the age of five; en­sure ac­cess to ba­sic health ser­vices for the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety; and to bol­ster as­sis­tance to the vic­tims of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, while strength­en­ing ef­forts to lessen the im­pact of the coun­try’s re­cur­rent cy­cle of floods and drought.

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