Hungry North Koreans should not be penalized

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Excerpts of Guardian opinion by Roberta Cohen, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution:

To attract donors, North Korea will need to devote more of its own resources to agricultural reforms, incentives for food production, ending market restrictions, importing greater quantities of food and improving its deteriorating health structures. Even so, some donors might not be eager to help a country that regularly hurls distasteful epithets and threatens its neighbors and beyond.

The most critical question, however, is whether hungry people should be penalized for the policies of their government. The answer is no. The stunting of children (one out of four under the age of five), high maternal mortality rates and tuberculosis for lack of vitamins and iron should be de-linked from political issues.

But here the case of North Korea presents a dilemma: reaching the needy has often been thwarted by a lack of access and transparency. While donors, UN agencies and NGOs have devised increasingly stringent monitoring conditions, including measuring children’s arms and providing corn soy blends so as not to be diverted to the military or elite, a widely disseminated United Nations report this year found that the government distributes food primarily to persons crucial to the regime, favors certain parts of the country, and avoids structural reforms of agriculture and health care out of fear of losing political control.

It therefore behooves the UN to press North Korea for strengthened monitoring and to link its aid to long term reforms designed to achieve sustainable results. And the UN must broaden its focus beyond traditional donors to China. As North Korea’s principal ally, recent estrangement notwithstanding, China should be urged to join in meeting shortfalls and in adopting international monitoring standards.

 [The Guardian]

This entry was posted in , by Grant Montgomery.

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