Thursday, February 1

The UN Cannot Save the North Koreans (So Stop Trying)

Recently it came out that the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, is operating in North Korea in ways that violate its own rules.

There is little if any oversight of the UNDP's projects in North Korea, which, according to a U.N. document, numbered 30 last year. UNDP regulations require one official, on-site visit a year but since Pyongyang prohibits foreigners from visiting some of the project sites, that's another rule that's out the window. Audits of individual projects are spotty at best and in the case of "nationally executed" or "NEX" projects--that is, those run by the North Korean government with funds provided by the UNDP--they are often done by the government itself, giving new meaning to the adage about the fox running the henhouse.

It's anyone's guess as to whether the UNDP work in North Korea is benefiting the people for whom it is intended. According to Mr. Wallace's letter, "In the absence of real audits and site visits it is impossible for UNDP to verify whether or not any of the funds paid to the DPRK for supposed use in UNDP programs have actually been used for bona fide development purposes or if the DPRK has converted such funds for its own illicit purposes." - Opinion Journal

Now I am going to make a safe guess and say that none of the UN Programs in North Korea have benefited anyone other than North Korea's leadership. Sure, you can point out all the food aid that has been delivered to the country, but you can't prove that it actually made it to the people, instead of say, being diverted to their army. Even if the food did make it to people last year, what about this year? The aid is just delaying a poor outcome.

Getting all of this aid for free is not enough for North Korea. Over time, they have made increasingly controlling demands on how the aid is to be provided, such as forbidding any marking on the aid noting where it has come from, like Japan, South Korea, or heaven forbid, the US. They have also forbid the ships from flying their flags while in North Korean ports.

Recently, North Korea told the UN, that they no longer needed food aid, but the UN was still welcome to provide it, as long as it was on the North's terms:

North Korea has formally told the UN it no longer needs food aid, despite reports of malnutrition in the country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon said the country now had enough food, due to a good harvest, and accused the US of using aid as a political weapon.

Top UN relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland said an "abrupt" end to food aid would harm North Korea's most vulnerable. - BBC

It is the UN's sheer determination to help North Korea's 'most vulnerable' that permits the North Korean Government to get away with all that it does, essentially holding it's own population hostage. So, the UN will break whatever rules stand in its way, even if that means helping the very dictators who are causing the problems.

Another problem which analysts believe may have led to the North's decision to ask foreign organisations to leave is the extensive surveying these groups are required to do, to ensure their money is being well-spent.

"Part of the problem is with our monitoring people moving around the country," Mr Bourke conceded. "This is and has been a concern for them." - BBC

This is when you just stop helping. At the very least, you limit your assistance to those areas you can fully inspect. After all there are two clients here. The North Koreans who are receiving the aid, and the aid donors who purchased the aid, who have rightly requested some sort of accounting/accountability to ensure that they received what they thought they were purchasing. It is an activity that we are all familiar with. You buy something and you check that you receive what you thought you purchased. The world sees starving North Koreans as a problem. Well, you will never solve the problem as long as their own Government does not see it that way as well. And for the moment, they don't.

One could easily blame the UNDP, but in truth they probably should not have been in North Korea in the first place. After all, it is their job to help those in need, and I bet the do-gooders on the ground would be hard pressed to not help the locals that they were put in contact with. Unfortunately, the whole UN needs to take a step back and concede that there is no way to help the people of North Korea while the current Government (which started the Korean War) is still in power.

It is not the UN's responsibility to care for North Korea's Citizens. If the Government there is willing to kill off its own population, then that is their problem. It is an internal matter. If the International community has a problem with this, then they should act through the UN, through 'dialog' for whatever good that might do, and through the sanction process. Then, if there is failure to act to solve the problem, then their leaders should be hauled before the International Court for crimes against humanity. The UN should not accept the responsibility for feeding another country's people. All it does is let the host government off the hook, leaving no incentive to solve the problem. As far as the government is concerned, the UN has solved the problem by stepping in. This goes for a number of UN member states that require perpetual aid.

Now that the US has finally gotten the information that they were requesting about the UNDP's Program in North Korea, there are calls to audit the UNDP's Program, which will hopefully also include an audit of what the World Food Programme has been up to. You see, despite the North Korean Government telling the World Food Programme that they did not need their help anymore, they still managed to convince the North Koreans to accept more handouts, on the North's terms:

Emergency assistance ended last December after the government, citing better harvests and domestic concerns about the emergence of a dependency culture and the intrusiveness of monitoring, declared it would in future accept only assistance that addressed medium- and long-term needs. An agreement signed in May 2006 following months of negotiation led to a resumption of distributions under a two-year programme to combat nutritional deficiencies and boost grassroots food security.

The new operation envisages the provision of 150,000 tonnes of commodities to 1.9 million people, most of them women and children. Its orientation is developmental, with humanitarian features. Vitamin-and-mineral enriched foods produced at WFP-supported factories are being given to young children and pregnant and nursing women, and cereal rations to underemployed workers through food-for-community-development schemes aimed at rehabilitating agricultural and other infrastructure. All these activities are vital investments in the future of their beneficiaries.

Distributions are being concentrated initially in 30 counties assessed by WFP to be among the most food-insecure. The operation is managed by ten resident international staff. To ensure proper implementation, they make regular visits to beneficiary hospitals, orphanages, nurseries, kindergartens, primary schools, Public Distribution Centres and food-for-work sites to assess the impact of the assistance and the nutritional status of recipients. - World Food Programme

You can bet that the World Food Programme never gets to visit any hospitals in Prison Camps, where they throw away babies who are guilty of no crime but are victims of UN inaction:

Today the Soviet Union is gone, but the communist system lives on in a few places. The glimpse we have into North Korea's delivery rooms is into those at detention centers for political prisoners, as described to Marie Claire magazine in 2002 by Lee Young Suk, a 65-year-old grandmother who was deported back to North Korea after she defected to China. At a detention center in South Sinuiju province, Lee Young was assigned to help deliver babies of other prisoners.

When she delivered the baby of the first woman under her care and reached for a blanket, a guard stopped her: "You crazy hag, are you out of your mind? What are you doing with the baby? Just put it in the box!" He grabbed the baby by a leg and dumped him into a wooden box that was sitting on the floor. He hit Lee Young's arm with a leather strap.

"North Korea is short of food already," the chief medical officer explained. "Why do we have to feed the offspring of foreign fathers? Since China is an open country, they could even be babies of American sperm, so then we'd be feeding Americans."

The procedure was as follows: Once the box was filled with infants, it would be taken to the mountains and buried. Most of the babies would die within four days, but Lee Young recalled two particularly healthy ones who took longer, moving their heads left to right, opening and closing their eyes and making froglike croaks. Their skin turned yellow and their lips blue until the medical officer finally stabbed them through the skull. Lee Young was reassigned when her heart weakened from what she was witnessing. She eventually bribed her way out of prison and into South Korea. - Opinion Journal

The above gives a pretty good impression of the type of Government we are dealing with. Surely, this story is just the tip of a crimes against humanity iceberg as well as a huge humanitarian disaster area. Now take that story above and contrast it with this shipment of humanitarian 'aid':

A South Korean cosmetics company said Wednesday that it sent makeup products worth 430 million won (US$449,500) to North Korea last month as part of humanitarian assistance to the impoverished country.

The cosmetics were provided to those residing around the North's scenic Mount Kumgang, who often encounter visitors from South Korea and other countries, said officials at Able C&C, which owns the popular budget cosmetics brand Missha. "Cosmetics are not luxuries but daily necessity items, and we thought people in North Korea would also need them," Yang Soon-ho, the company's president, said in a press release. - Cankor Report

With shipments of 'aid' like this, no wonder Kim Jong Il thinks he can get away with toying with the West.

Take a look at this picture of both Koreas at night:

Very simply, the North's problems are well beyond any band aid measures that the current Government will permit. It is the North Korean Government itself that is the threat to the people of North Korea. So let's stop bothering. Perhaps this somewhat cruel-sounding act will finally starve the administration over there to a rightful death. Then we can take all the money not given to the current regime and put it to real humanitarian use one the North opens up.

Now, if the UN really wants to help people, other than dictators and their own bank accounts, then how about helping those who manage to escape from North Korea:

For more than a decade, North Koreans have been fleeing their country by the only avenue even partly open to them--past the northern border patrols, into China. An estimated 300,000 North Koreans are in hiding in China today. They have a well-founded fear of persecution, should they be sent back. Testimony has stacked up high and wide--much of it over the past four years, on Mr. Lubbers's watch-- that if returned these refugees would likely end up starved or worked to death in the labor camps of Kim Jong Il. Some are murdered outright. One recent dispatch from a South Korean private aid group, the Headquarters for the Protection of North Korean Defectors, reports that according to sources inside North Korea the regime there just last month executed some 60 North Korean would-be defectors sent back by China, killing at least eight in public, in the northern city of Chongjin--to deter others from making a run for it.

Such would-be refugees have been dying faceless, nameless and scarcely even remarked upon by the world community. But these were human beings. They had faces and names. From what we know of conditions in North Korean detention centers, it's a good bet they were freezing, famished and quite possibly tortured in the hours before they were then murdered in public due to the combined and systematic state policies of China and North Korea.

Where is the U.N. in all this? Under the U.N. Refugee Convention--which Beijing has signed and the UNHCR, with its $1.1 billion budget, is supposed to administer--these North Koreans refugees had rights. The convention promised them not a return to their deaths, but at least safe transit through China to a place of asylum.

The UNHCR keeps an office in Beijing, with a budget this year totaling $4.4 million, to which asylum seekers have no access. Four years ago, a family of North Korean refugees actually stormed the premises and gained asylum after threatening to eat rat poison from their pockets if forced back out onto the street. Since then, the UNHCR has allowed China's security agents to better defend the compound against further visits by the people the UNHCR is supposedly in China to protect.

For years now, the U.N. policy in dealing with North Korean refugees in China has been one of what its spokesmen call "quiet diplomacy." The hushed implication is that behind the scenes, the UNHCR is in deep and earnest discussion with the Chinese authorities. No doubt. And there has been some help for a small number, mainly by way of easing them quietly out of the country once they have risked their lives by storming foreign compounds other than the UNHCR's. But the broad picture, for the hundreds of thousands, is a quiet but dire absence of any help whatsoever.

Ask the U.N. to explain its procedure for processing North Korean refugees in China. There is none. The UNHCR's Beijing representative referred me to the organization's Geneva headquarters. There, a spokeswoman in the midst of dealing with the Lubbers sex scandal wondered why it would be of interest at this moment of crisis to discuss North Korean refugees. "Why today?"

Why? Because after more than a decade of what this spokeswoman described as "low profile" diplomacy, the UNHCR, has failed these refugees, and done abysmally little to alert the world. Two years ago, Mr. Lubbers finally designated them a population "of concern," and there the matter sits, as people quietly die. With the UNHCR's top job now open for new management, it is less the new office etiquette in Geneva that should serve as a yardstick of reform, but whether or not there will now be deeds to save the refugees of North Korea. - Opinion Journal

So, lets stop wasting time talking to the leaders of the 'DPRK' and devote our efforts to isolating them, while assisting those who do manage to escape from their captors.

(Note: I am not saying to deny North Korea access to food and fuel and fertilizer. I am just saying to stop giving it to them for free. Let them pay for it, just like the rest of the planet. They did have enough money to develop nuclear weapons and they have enough money to maintain one of the world's largest armies. How about telling them to spend the money where it is needed. The US is attempting to get the UN to follow it's own rules. Now we just need to get South Korea and China, both huge donors to the North, to get onboard as well. A good start would be for these partners of ours to step up and enforce the UN Sanctions.)

Update: 4 February 2007

Thanks to One Free Korea for linking to this post and providing their insight here.

They also point to these two posts for more information:
- Defining Genocide Down - One Free Korea

- N. Korean Famine A ‘Crime Against Humanity’ - One Free Korea

Yes, it is a crime against humanity.

I have now added a 'North Korea' label to my other posts that cover this issue.

UNDP North Korea Page
North Korea rejects UN food aid - BBC
World Food Programme - UN

United Nations Dictator's Program - Opinion Journal
U.N. Cash for Kim - Opinion Journal
'We Welcome an Independent Audit' - Opinion Journal
Ban's Reform Call - Opinion Journal

*** Soviet Child Care - Born in the USSR - Opinion Journal ***

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