What Works Best? by Erich Weingartner

There is a simple question I am often asked when speaking about humanitarian assistance: What works best with the DPRK?

Simple questions don’t always result in simple answers, and when it comes to the DPRK, simple answers don’t exist. Actually, even simple questions turn out to be more complex when applied to the DPRK: What do we mean by the words “works best”? Works best for whom? For what purpose? Under what circumstances? During what time period? And who or what determines what works best?

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

Works best for whom?

For the donors? For the implementing agencies? For the recipient country? For the intended beneficiaries?

What works best for international agencies may not work best for Korean organizations. What works best for resident NGOs may not work for non-resident NGOs. What works best for European NGOs under the umbrella of the EU or EC or ECHO may not work for American NGOs distributing the donations of US-AID. What works best for the Eugene Bell Foundation may not work at all for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). What works best for the elite in Pyongyang may not work well for the families of unemployed workers in Chongjin.

Works best for what purpose?

What may work best in the short term may not work best with a longer-term perspective in mind. When evaluating assistance programme models and strategies, we should consider what long-term objectives we are seeking to achieve:

  • When we intervene in the DPRK, is our only goal to feed the hungry?
  • Or are we also concerned about peace and security in the region? Read the rest of this entry »
Advertisements

Update on First Steps activities, by Susan Ritchie

[First Steps is a Vancouver-based Christian development organization whose primary purpose is preventing child malnutrition in North Korea through programs that provide essential nutrients to young children. Its founding director Susan Ritchie recently returned from a visit to the DPRK and sent us this report. For more on First Steps and Ms Ritchie, see the Chosun Ilbo article “Canadian Who Became ‘Mother’ to N.Korean Orphans”. –CanKor]

First Steps founding director Susan Ritchie explains her charity's activities in North Korea while showing a picture taken in a factory she visited there. (Photo by Chosun Ilbo)

First Steps founding director Susan Ritchie explains her charity’s activities in North Korea while showing a picture taken in a factory she visited there. (Photo by Chosun Ilbo)

First Steps currently has two programs. First Steps’ soymilk program is currently reaching more than 90,000 children with a daily cup of soymilk. The micro -nutrient Sprinkles program is reaching approx. 70,000 pregnant women and babies from 6 – 24 months. Sprinkles prevent anemia and reduce morbidity (for example, deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia as well as rickets, etc.). As in-kind donations are becoming more available we are increasingly able to engage in relief work when there is a need.

We are shipping 3 larger food processing units to Wonsan in the coming weeks and expect that the total number of FS soymilk beneficiaries will soon exceed 100,000 children. The FS soymilk plants are working exceptionally well in the cities, counties and farms where we work. The food processing equipment that we send is a good fit for NK. Last year we shipped 280 metric tonnes of soybeans to supplement the local supply. We currently have 75 tonnes of soys en route.

I mentioned Deokchon in our last newsletter. It’s a city of 250,000 people, almost all of whom are engaged in mining coal (400 metres underground) or relevant activities to feed the coal plant in Pyongyang. We first visited the area after they had suffered a landside that took 46 lives and left more than 8,000 people homeless last summer. We partnered with ShelterBox to send in tents and then we sent in a 20′ container of relief foods for the children. Last week we visited the city again to confirm the arrival of the food, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.5

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current June 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a joint Korean team. The pair won the female finals by defeating China.

  • China Offers Work Visas for 40,000 N.Koreans
  • UN Report Highlights Plight of NK Children
  • Politics Hampering UN Aid Efforts
  • Female Participation in North Korea’s Business Sector
  • Table Tennis Player Sees Opportunity for Unity
  • NK Could Be Major Carbon Credit Player
  • Visa-free Access to Yalu River Zone

    …plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

China’s issuance of 40,000 work visas, and perhaps more in the pipeline, to North Koreans is a step in the right direction. It is well attested that the vast majority of North Koreans who have fled their homeland since the famine of the 1990s (the “Arduous March”) have been economic migrants seeking a better life, not political refugees, of whom only a handful were recorded in the previous four decades. The deal apparently came about as a result of a request by the DPRK’s new leader Kim Jong Un. Now, those who wish to do so will be able to legally work in China — as many already do in Russia — and send money (the Renminbi yuan is regarded as a hard currency in NK) and food home, avoiding falling into the hands of human traffickers and being smuggled into South Korea, where their lot is not a happy one. This will reduce the profits of this evil trade, and help the Chinese police crack down on the gangsters and rescue their victims.

It will also take the wind out of the sails of those who claim that North Koreans flee and fall prey to the traffickers because Pyongyang doesn’t allow them to leave.

Please feel free to consult the full issue by clicking on this link: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.4

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current May 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.4

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK's Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK’s Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Can Singapore Be Economic Model for NK?
  • China’s Jilin Province Speeding Up Border Projects
  • Various NK Bodies Competing for Investments
  • Change is Around the Corner for the DPRK
  • Will NK’s Plans for Foreign Investment Make it a Prosperous Nation?
  • Pyongyang Holds 13th Spring Trade Fair
  • Tanchon Port Completed
  • Rason to Host Second Int’l Trade Exhibition

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

May has been a good month for debunking misconceptions about the DPRK. First of all, the story that during the “sunshine” years of ROK presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun the South delivered “handouts” of free food to the North and got nothing in return has turned out to be untrue. The fact is that the North received a low interest loan from South Korea’s state-owned Export-Import Bank to buy the food. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.3

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check out the full text of the April 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly April 2012

Huichon power station in Jagang Province, DPRK, has started operations on 6 April 2012 to help ease electricity shortages in the capital, protect cultivated land and residential areas along the Chongchon River from flooding, and ensure an ample supply of water to the industrial establishments in Huichon and Namhung areas, according to official media reports. (Photo by KCNA)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Rajin-Khassan Freight Train Service to Open in October
  • More NK Citizens Visit China
  • A Question of Leadership
  • Huichon Power Station Operational
  • Future High-tech Farming for NK?
  • Department Store for Scientists and Technicians
  • NK, China Seeking Investors for Rajin Port

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

There have been several significant signs this month that North Korea’s new leadership is sincere about enhancing transparency. For one thing, NK invited news media from around the world to observe its satellite launch, knowing full well that if it failed (It did), the whole world would know, and there could be no cover-up. Not only that, the official DPRK media reported the disaster with no holds barred. That’s got to be a first. Another first was the reporting of two speeches made by the new leader, Kim Jong Un, on the front page of the North’s leading Workers Daily. His father, the late Kim Jong Il, does not seem to have made any public speeches at all during his 17-year tenure, and any private ones were not reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Ottawa Round Table Part 4 – CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

CanKor Brain Trust on the Current Situation in the DPRK

by Paul Evans, Victor Hsu, Hazel Smith, Hark Kroll, Jeremy Paltiel and Jack Kim

Ottawa Round Table on Humanitarian Aid in the Current North Korean Context, 5 March 2012

Q: What dangers and opportunities can you foresee in the evolving situation?

Paul Evans, Professor, Liu Institute for Global Issues; Director, Institute of Asian Research, UBC:

Why assume that the KJU era will be any different? My only glimpse into the fog is the signal from the group that attended the six-month training program here that it was business as usual for a second phase, with no changes expected. I had dinner with a DPRK diplomat in Bangkok as part of an ARF meeting and more or less out of the blue he asked me how the UBC training program had gone and how we could find ways to get more DPRK students to Canada in future. Really out of context and it may be that he only guessed at a connection and my interest by seeing my card. But…

Victor Hsu, Visiting Professor, School of Public Policy and Management , Korea Development Institute (KDI), Seoul:

From my perspective, assuming that ROK maintains its current attempt to reverse the LMB policy, opportunities are going to increase. I don’t believe there will be any continuation of refusal to provide humanitarian aid. Both main parties in ROK are framing renewed engagement, as is the USA. EU will follow suit.

Hazel Smith, Professor of Resilience and Security, Cranfield University, UK:

The DPRK government is far from unique in being culpable of poor governance and failing to meet the food needs of its people. Arguing that the DPRK humanitarian and food crises are unique is wrong in advocacy terms because it reinforces the politicisation of aid to the DPRK in its emphasis on the ‘exceptionally awful’ case of the DPRK.

The reasons for food shortages and economic failure in the DPRK are prosaic. Like very large numbers of governments, the DPRK government lacks oil (to generate revenue), suffered the withdrawal of external subsidies, has an obsolescent economic infrastructure in every respect, and is governed by a non-democratic, economically illiterate and inept government. Read the rest of this entry »

Ottawa Round Table Part 2 – Opening Remarks by Erich Weingartner

Finding the Right Balance to Aid North Korean People

Ottawa Round Table on Humanitarian Aid in the Current North Korean Context, 5 March 2012

Origin of this Round Table

In February 2011 a number of agencies received messages from DPRK authorities urgently requesting food aid. These requests unleashed a vibrant discussion within the humanitarian and policy communities as to whether the need is great enough to warrant emergency aid, and if so, whether monitoring can be sufficiently guaranteed to prevent diversion to the military or the elite at the expense of those most in need.

Assessment missions were sent by the FAO/WFP, the EU, the USA, as well as a consortium of US-based NGOs. All concluded that the food deficit is real, although there was considerable disagreement about the capacity of aid agencies to mount a robust monitoring regime. The EU and a number of countries decided to deliver modest quantities of aid. Canada contributed 2.5 million dollars to the WFP for eventual use in North Korea. The USA continued bilateral negotiations that resulted in a positive decision in December 2011. An announcement was to be made the week that Kim Jong Il died.

In early summer 2011 CanKor initiated discussions among Canadian NGOs as to whether the situation merited a Canadian initiative. Only a very small number of Canadian agencies still delivered modest amounts of targeted food aid to the DPRK. Continuing questions surrounding monitoring standards in the DPRK discouraged other NGOs from initiating any significant new food aid activities.

On the other hand, there were still a number of NGOs interested in convening a round table to engage in discussion about North Korean humanitarian dilemmas. Some were concerned that the food aid debate had become increasingly politicized. What was the basis of decisions surrounding food aid, for example? Were food aid decisions made for humanitarian purposes, or has food become an additional tool in the exercise of coercive diplomacy to further aims such as rolling back DPRK nuclear weapons development, promoting human rights, or encouraging democratic development and/or regime change? Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: