Fri, Sep 06, 2019 - Page 6 News List

North Korea tells UN to cut aid staff

‘POLITICIZATION’:A UN envoy said the group is ‘deeply surprised’ by the request, as need for aid has grown and the UN has been trying to scale up assistance efforts


North Korea has told the UN to cut the number of international staff it deploys in the country as the world body’s programs have failed “due to the politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces,” according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The UN estimates that 10.3 million people — almost half the nation’s population — are in need and about 41 percent of North Koreans are undernourished.

Pyongyang in February said that it was facing a food shortfall this year and had to halve rations, blaming drought, floods and sanctions.

“UN-supported programs failed to bring the results as desired due to the politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces,” North Korean National Coordinating Committee for the UN Secretary-General Kim Chang-min wrote to the top UN official posted in the nation.

In the Aug. 21 letter, Kim said that the number of international staff should be cut by the end of the year.

North Korea wants the number of international staff with the UN Development Programme to be cut to one or two from six, the WHO to four from six and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund to cut its 13 staff by one or two.

Kim said that the number of international staff with the World Food Programme should be reduced “according to the amount of food aid to be provided” once the agency and North Korea agree how to implement a plan for this year to 2021.

There was also no need for a humanitarian aid coordination officer, Kim wrote, adding that UN aid officials could instead “visit as and when required.”

The UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Historically, there’s been a critical lack of international expertise and oversight, and capacity to monitor the use of the assistance that is provided,” a UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“We’re deeply surprised by this turn of events in part because this is when the needs have grown and the UN has been trying to mobilize support to scale up assistance in country,” the diplomat added.

The move comes amid stalled talks between the US and North Korea aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. The UN Security Council has unanimously ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for those programs.

“The North Korean government’s decisions are only hurting the North Korean people,” a second UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “This is coming at a time where both Russia and China are pushing a false narrative that sanctions are causing the humanitarian problems in North Korea and the only way to solve that is to give North Korea sanctions relief.”

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia on Tuesday told reporters that unilateral sanctions imposed on North Korea by other nations and some strict interpretations of UN sanctions were hindering humanitarian work.

“The population of North Korea should not suffer under those sanctions that have been imposed illegitimately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh said it has banned two aid agencies from Rohingya camps, alleging they were telling refugees to reject repatriation to Myanmar.

The latest repatriation attempt by Bangladesh and Myanmar two weeks ago failed with not a single refugee volunteering.

US-based Adventist Development and Relief Agency and local organization al-Markazul Islami were accused by the Bangladeshi NGO Affairs Bureau of “instigating” the stateless minority against the repatriation attempt.

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