UNSC streamlines rules for aid to Pyongyang

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UNSC streamlines rules for aid to Pyongyang

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday adopted new guidelines to streamline the delivery of humanitarian aid to North Korea, which comes amid Washington’s continued call for stringent enforcement of sanctions on the regime.

None of the 15 members of the Security Council, headquartered in New York, opposed the passing of the U.S.-drafted guidelines. They will be sent to all 193 member states of the United Nations to assist countries and international and nongovernmental organizations in carrying out humanitarian aid activities “for the benefit of the civilian population” in North Korea and to improve the delivery of such assistance to the country while avoiding sanctions evasions.

The UNSC resolutions on North Korea adopted between 2006 and 2017 to punish it for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs exempt humanitarian aid.

The “Guidelines for Obtaining Exemptions to Deliver Humanitarian Assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” issued Monday is intended to clarify the process by offering guidance on how to submit humanitarian exemption requests to the Security Council’s 1718 Committee. UNSC Resolution 1718 of 2006 established the so-called sanctions committee on North Korea.

The exemption letter requires 10 elements, including detailing the nature of assistance, the quantity of the items imported, the parties involved and the planned route and method of transfer - including ports of departure and entry to be used for shipment. Likewise, financial transactions associated with the transfer of goods are to be disclosed, as well as an annex containing an itemized list of all planned transfers of goods and services.

The letter should also show measures taken to ensure that the aid is “not diverted for prohibited purposes” to avoid sanctions evasions.

On the approval process, the guidelines acknowledge the “time-sensitive nature of humanitarian assistance” and said that the sanctions committee “will endeavor to process exemption requests as quickly as possible to provide decisions within a reasonable time frame.” It will issue its decision in a response letter.

The guideline advises countries and aid organizations to consolidate planned shipments to the North to one every six months and also seek exemptions every six months. It also generally advises non-governmental organizations to submit the letter to the committee through their governments.

After a trip to North Korea last month, Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, reported to the United Nations “clear evidence” of humanitarian need in the country. He said that some 40 percent of the population of about 25 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, including children suffering from malnutrition.

He noted substantial delays in the transfer of necessary aid to North Korea, even though it is exempt from sanctions.

This latest measure can be considered a small olive branch extended to North Korea amid an apparent deadlock on denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. The guidelines were drafted by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley and have been reviewed by members of the council over the past two weeks.

A U.S. official told CBS News on Monday that the new guidelines are “solely intended” to establish a clear and uniform process to “review legitimate humanitarian exemption requests and guard against any activities that would undermine existing Security Council resolutions.”

“We are glad that the Security Council agreed on the guidelines, and we hope they provide clarity on how to deliver humanitarian aid to the North Korean people without violating the sanctions,” said Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, the deputy ambassador the Netherlands to the UN, through a statement Monday.

There are expectations, however, in Seoul that the guidelines may provide wider berth for its humanitarian assistance programs for the North.

The Moon Jae-in government has tried to separate the provision of humanitarian assistance from ongoing nuclear and political issues.

Last September, the South Korean government decided to provide $8 million worth of humanitarian aid, including nutritional products for children and pregnant women, vaccines and medicinal treatments through the World Food Program (WFP) and UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) to the North. But because of escalated tensions stemming from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile provocations, the aid was put off.

“I believe that the guidelines will be helpful in the process of planning humanitarian aid to the North,” said a South Korean Foreign Ministry official Tuesday. “As you may know, our government’s basic stance is to do our utmost to consult with the international community in the process of carrying out relations with North Korea, including providing humanitarian assistance, in order to prevent any issues with UN Security Council resolutions.”

However, the official said the adoption of the guidelines by the Security Council was not affected by the South Korean government’s request.

This official further said that there are “no particular changes” on the plans to provide the $8 million aid package to the North at the moment.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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