Without much fanfare, several countries have made modest donations to the WFP for food distribution in the DPRK. Surprisingly, one of these is Canada. Readers may remember that in response to a request by CanKor, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) last May indicated that “Canada has not made any further commitments to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance beyond those made between 2007 and 2009 through the World Food Programme.” (See: Will Canada Provide Humanitarian Aid to the DPRK?)
It turns out that isn’t quite accurate. The DPRK “Project Profile” on CIDA’s own website, dated 17 February 2011, indicates that Canada pledged $2,500,000 for food aid to the DPRK via the WFP. (See: Project profile for Food Assistance in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – WFP 2011) It also states that the grant is for 2011-2013.
Meanwhile, the WFP website indicates that Canada contributed $2,502,503 for the WFP’s current emergency operation in DPRK, designed to target the 3.5 million people most at risk of serious damage to their health as a result of the current food shortages. (See: WFP Operations page for DPRK)
Our request for clarification to CIDA has remained unanswered for the past two weeks. Meanwhile, Abdurrahim Siddiqui, the Deputy-Country Director for WFP Pyongyang offered this clarification in an email message to CanKor:
a) The Canadian (CIDA) contribution of CAD 2.5 million was dated February 16, 2011 and at that point of time, WFP was implementing a single operation (PRRO 200114 :”Nutrition Support for Women and Children”) therefore, the contribution was registered against the PRRO. The emergency operation (EMOP 200266) started in late April following a rapid food security assessment in March 2011.
b) Following the commencement of the new emergency operation (April 2011 -March 2012), the PRRO was suspended during the period of implementation of the EMOP. However, the in-country food stocks and the food shipment in the pipeline of the PRRO (including the Canadian contribution) were borrowed to the emergency operation, which will be paid back to the PRRO once the EMOP is finished.
c) It is indeed mentioned that the grant is for 2011-2013 (in the CIDA website) however, we do not know whether any further contributions from CIDA could be expected from Canada before 2014. We would expect that Canada will contribute before 2014.
According to resource acquisition updates on the WFP website (22 November 2011), there are other countries that have quietly contributed to the food drive. Australia and Switzerland appear at the top of the list, with Russia and Brazil close behind. (The figures are in US dollars.)
And of course as reported before, the European Commission donated $12,142,857. Additional amounts have been taken from the WFP’s Multilateral Fund and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, as well as carryovers from previous projects, private donors and miscellaneous income.
It should be noted that Canada also contributes to the WFP Multilateral Fund. On 26 October, the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced the Government of Canada’s continued support to the WFP to the tune of $350 million over five years. (See: Canada increases support for global food security through the World Food Programme and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank) It is not known at this point what fraction of this amount the WFP could eventually use for food aid to the DPRK. Nor–as Mr. Siddiqui mentions in his email–is it known whether Canada will contribute additional funds for the DPRK before 2014.
There is really nothing wrong with any of this. We are relieved that Canada has decided to do something, however modest that “something” may be. Then why is CIDA being so cagey about the facts? Why deny any Canadian contributions to North Korean food aid in two separate requests for information? Why the hesitation to reply to our query regarding information that appears on both CIDA and WFP websites? Could it be that the Conservative Government of Canada is embarrassed to admit that it is helping to feed Communist North Korea?
The biggest donors of food aid to the DPRK of the past (USA and ROK) have not yet made any commitments, nor have they discounted the option of doing so. As a result, the WFP’s work in Pyongyang suffers from severe underfunding, with a continued shortfall of 68.5% (as of 6 December 2011). That is, less than a third of the required food aid has thus far been available to cover the bare necessities of life for the most vulnerable in North Korea.
- Catherine Bertini recommends ROK and USA resume food aid (CanKor.ca)
- Update on Humanitarian Aid to North Korea by Victor Hsu (CanKor.ca)
- Let them eat sanctions, by Erich Weingartner (CanKor.ca)
- 50th Anniversary of the World Food Programme (CanKor.ca)
- Will Canada Provide Humanitarian Aid to the DPRK? (CanKor.ca)