"Serious concern" about the impact of sanctions on aid work of North Korea: Representative of the DPRK at the UN
Multilateral and unilateral aspects of the regime of international sanctions affecting Korean aid projects North
Obstacles to humanitarian work within North Korea the result of international sanctions is becoming a "serious concern" and may "hinder relief assistance and activities", letters of October 27 from the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Pyongyang seen by NK News read.
The letters and accompanying documentation, compiled by Tapan Mishra – who has held the post since 2015 – include a detailed inventory of what is said to be 42 direct and indirect occasions in which the sanctions have prevented the humanitarian work of the United Nations and the United Nations. the DPRK.
Sent to senior UN officials working on issues of emergency relief and humanitarian affairs, the letters warn of the "unintended consequences" of both The multiple issues raised in the inventory of 42 points they occur despite the agreement of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that sanctions resolutions "are not destined to have adverse effects". humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK … [and] the work of international and non-governmental organizations that carry out relief and assistance activities in the DPRK for the benefit of the civilian population, "the letters said. ]
In general, the attached inventory showed problems falling within five main areas, resulting in innumerable delays, prohibitions and cancellations on the supplier side that have direct and indirect consequences for the beneficiaries of aid in Korea North, as well as foreigners working to improve conditions in the country.
"Crucial relief items, including medical equipment and medicines, have been on hold for months despite being equipped with the paperwork required stating that they are not on the sanctions list, "the letters explained.
In addition," a growing number Transport companies now hesitate to take the cargo destined for the DPRK for fear of the financial and reputational costs of being involved in trade with a country subject to sanctions. "
In addition, an increasing number of Chinese suppliers have expressed their reluctance to continue cooperating with humanitarian agencies in the DPRK" for fear of financial and reputational costs ".  Banking channels to support humanitarian activities in North Korea currently face major obstacles, letters continued, with some transactions even outside the country blocked by banks concerned about their relations with other financial institutions.  And in light of "explicit import restrictions on oil to the DPRK" (following UN Resolution 2371) "an increase in fuel and diesel prices is" which imposes additional restrictions on the agency budgets and the ability to carry out the required missions in the field "
" Crucial relief items, including medical equipment and drugs, has I have been detained for months despite being equipped with the required documentation … "
"CONSEQUENCES OF THREAT OF LIFE"
The inventory of the 42 problems caused directly and indirectly by the tightening of North Korea's sanctions, which have expanded markedly in recent years after frequent ballistic missiles and Pyongyang nuclear tests: it ranges from the relatively mundane to issues that directly impact the provision of health services for vulnerable North Korean citizens.
"Without anesthesia machines, emergency operations such as cesareans, appendectomies, intestinal obstructions, etc. can not be performed, which can have potentially fatal consequences," says the impact evaluation of a delay three months experienced by the World Health Organization (WHO) after an attempt to import 13 anesthesia machines stopped by the Chinese customs authorities in Dalian.
In another example, it was described that a UN agency had to consider the return of emergency reproductive health kits in transit in Dalian due to the presence of "steam sterilizers made of aluminum" for which the Chinese customs had not yet approved the transfer to North Korea.
The agency said it was considering returning the kits to the Netherlands to manually remove the aluminum sterilizers as a means to avoid a 6 to 8 month wait for approval of the exemption, adding that hospitals need North Korea uld, otherwise, it should dispense with "the most important equipment for the prevention of infections".
And the problems in India caused by the carriers, at least one still not resolved, meant deliveries of drugs to treat tuberculosis (TB) and malaria have been delayed, while a X-ray digital machine and TB diagnostic reagents needed to detect the disease have stagnated in European countries since April and September, respectively, pending the approval of Chinese customs.
However, UNICEF – one of the affected agencies – in June said NK News was confident of being able to organize and deliver humanitarian aid to combat tuberculosis and malaria in North Korea.
Causes for the complete inventory of 42 subjects ranging from legal blockages, anxiety in local banks, inclusion of the word "Korea" in the provider's name fields, requirements for additional documentation, concerns about materials potentially dual-use, and connection citations between sanctioned banks and suppliers in the country, among others.
"Without anesthesia machines, emergency operations such as cesareans, appendectomies, intestinal obstructions, etc. can not be performed and can have potentially fatal consequences …"
One of the other major areas of concern arising from the growing UN sanctions regime for operations in North Korea is related to "general provisions" in UN Resolutions 2270 and 2321 "that" prohibit all activities of member states or agencies that may strengthen the military capabilities of the DPRK in any way, "includes a separate document with the letters.  "Seeing that the DPRK is a great militarized society, with the military involved in almost every sector of the economy, this is one of the most difficult provisions to meet," said the document, which focuses on the impact of UN Resolutions 2270 and 2321 on the operational activities of the UN Country Team (UNCT) and agencies in the DPRK
"The immediate implications of the provision of & # 39; atr apar todo & # 39; described above are that any business with any company or entity linked to the DPRK is prohibited, "the document continued" In the same way, any provision of goods and services that in one way or another reach the military must end if it exists " "Seeing that the DPRK is a highly militarized society, with the military involved in almost every sector of the economy, this is one of the most difficult provisions to comply with …"
Although apparently not having an immediate impact In the operation of UN agencies working in North Korea, the document warned that risks in this area could be unknowingly applied to the "purchase of fuel, as well as the acquisition of vehicle repair services, as it is likely to be acquired in the country and may be supplied by a military-owned company. "
The document also notes how the med Both multilateral and unilateral, understanding the broader sanctions regime of North Korea could affect the operations of UN agencies in the field, classifying them into high, medium and low risk groups.
"High risk" items that were described as being particularly susceptible to the complications of sanctions, which potentially have a "critical" impact on some operations in the country, were described as fertilizers, laboratory, IT equipment, cameras, conference systems and photocopiers, according to the document.
The problems identified in the UN charts and the accompanying documentation are not new, but they have reportedly steadily worsened with the rapid extension of the regime. sanctions since early 2017.
An investigation conducted in August 2016 NK News on the impact of sanctions on humanitarian work in North Korea, for example , found that the situation on the ground was "highly nuanced and decidedly non-binary," with problems caused in equal parts by uncooperative North Korean partners, growing donor fatigue and problems with monitoring and evaluation of aid.
The aid organizations and the sources of the UN agencies also reported earlier that the North Koreans have restricted access to parts of the country, created obstacles to the complete collection of data, and have been sensitive about the deployment of speakers of the Korean language in certain missions.
a year later, many of those problems still remain, several sources NK News, said but now they seem to compile the results of the worsening of the general sanctions regime.
"This is a government that voluntarily chooses to let its people suffer grievously while concentrating resources on weapons of mass destruction and luxuries for leadership," said Ambassador Robert King, former special envoy of the United States. for Human Rights Affairs of North Korea NK News.
"When a government makes a difficult decision on where to deposit its limited humanitarian assistance funds, North Korea is an increasingly difficult decision to justify to taxpayers and legislators of ideas hard. "
"This is a government that deliberately chooses to let its people suffer grievously while focusing resources on weapons of mass destruction and luxuries for leadership …"
And in that regard, WFP spokesperson Silke Buhr said NK News on Wednesday that from his perspective, "the biggest problem, however, that WFP currently faces in the DPRK is a critical funding gap".
"WFP already had to leave 190,000 children in kindergartens without nutritional support," Buhr said.
"This support can not be resumed unless new funds are secured for six months." This is in addition to the cuts in effect since February 2017, when we were forced to reduce rations by a third, to the minimum necessary to make some difference.
"We urgently need US $ 14.25 million to take us through the harsh winter and avoid further cuts," Buhr added.
However, another source working in Korea's assistance North said NK News that some in Pyongyang were very aware of the problems that their actions – that have this year included three ICBM tests and a nuclear detonation of a hydrogen bomb, caused by the obstruction of the humanitarian aid
But for those who can even raise money and support, nonprofit director Geoffrey See, founder of Choson Exchange, said that it seems that Companies and banks are increasingly anxious to avoid "any risk associated with North Korea … whether for organizations working in North Korea or for people working on the issue of refugees outside of North Korea."
"This and the unwillingness of other businesses to deal with North Korea have increased the cost of operations for those working on the issue," he continued.
An NGO worker who spoke on condition of anonymity and regularly visits the North said the situation had become increasingly challenging in 2017 due to the difficulties arising from the international sanctions regime .
The source said that his private NGO was, therefore, "staggering on the edge," with tasks that normally took 30 minutes. and take weeks to achieve it and now there are "several layers of problems" that must be addressed every time North Korea is going to be procured.
"This and the unwillingness of other businesses to deal with North Korea have boosted the costs of operations for those working on the issue …"
But that source and others still expressed some nuances about how drastic is the problem.
Another NGO staff member working from North Korea, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of talking to the media, said the combined problems meant that "more and more difficult to find suppliers or transport companies or even consultants ".
But the same staff member insisted that "work is still possible" and that the situation was not so bad that sanctions now prevent work from being carried out.
And a third NGO source with recent experience On the ground they agreed, saying they believed there was a "mixed message" about the impact of sanctions, with "some expats seeing the glass half full, some seeing that it was half empty. "
"Luxury stores have stocks in abundance with many luxury items, including imported foods and things like imported appliances (televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, etc.)," said the third source of NGO, despite all the problems reported by humanitarian groups.
The first NGO source concluded that they believed that the architects of sanctions did not intend to stop humanitarian work in North Korea, but that the net result of the emerging measures was to make the things that are increasingly difficult, slow and expensive.
"Through this letter, I am also seeking your support, as Chairman of Committee 1718, to remind Member States that the sanctions are not intended to hinder assistance and relief activities, "said one of the two letters from the UN Resident Coordinator
" A formal communication from the Sanctions Committee reiterating to all interested parties that the Humanitarian activities are exempt from sanctions would be very useful in this regard, "the letter continued.
A similar letter, addressed to UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, sought similar support to help "minimize the impact of sanctions on humanitarian programming "
" Through this letter, I am also seeking your support … to remind Member States that the sanctions are not intended to hamper assistance and relief activities "
Whether your contributions help or not to solve the problem, it is possible that, with a little time, things improve, said the third source of NGO workers.
"The latest sanctions have agitated a number of existing mechanisms of trade channels, suppliers (Chinese) are afraid and are not willing to risk being banned or accused", said the third NGO source.
"But normally, after a few weeks and months, things are reinstalled and commercial channels are established again."
However, the timing of the growing problems, coinciding with the cold winter season of North Korea, is less than ideal.
"What is less clear for now is the impact of sanctions on the population," continued the second NGO worker. "We know very little"
"There is definitely less fuel and less electricity, but for the rest, it's hard to say: people already live with almost nothing, so it's hard to go lower."
Concerns about the impact of sanctions on humanitarian aid in North Korea, where malnutrition and chronic health problems remain a problem, were raised as recently as the week last was raised in an emergency meeting of the UNSC.
Speaking at a emergency meeting of the body after the launch of the North Korean test of the Hwasong-15 missile, Swedish Ambassador at the UN Olof Skoog He expressed those concerns.
"The measures adopted by the council were never intended to have a negative effect on humanitarian assistance, therefore, recent reports that sanctions have adverse consequences and the capacity of the humanitarian organization to respond to these urgent humanitarian needs are deeply worrying, "he said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Main picture: NK News