UN Security Council fast-tracks sanctions exemptions for North Korea aid groups

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UN Security Council fast-tracks sanctions exemptions for North Korea aid groups

The United Nations Security Council’s sanctions committee on Monday adopted new guidelines to fast-track procedures for humanitarian aid groups to receive exemptions from UN sanctions on North Korea.  
The UN 1718 Sanctions Committee revised its guidelines on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to North Korea, extending the sanctions exemption period from the current six months to nine months.
The update comes after the 15-member council headquartered in New York agreed on a U.S. proposal to streamline and lengthen exemption requests for urgent humanitarian assistance to North Korea, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Humanitarian aid groups will also be allowed to deliver their items in up to three shipments during the exemption period, enabling more urgent items to be shipped out first rather than the current requirement which allows for only one shipment.
The UN Security Council posted an updated “Implementation Assistance Notice No. 7: Guidelines for Obtaining Exemptions to Deliver Humanitarian Assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” on its website Monday. The original guideline was posted in August 2018.
The North Korea sanctions committee recognized the “time-sensitive nature of humanitarian assistance” and under the revised guidelines, exemptions will be granted for aid groups that provide “a well-founded justification, such as transportation delays related to a pandemic.”  
The committee likewise said it will review sanctions exemption requests and urgent emergency humanitarian assistance requests, including those aimed at responding to pandemic outbreaks or natural disasters, “on an expedited timeframe.”
UN agencies and other international and non-governmental organizations that have received two or more exemptions in the past 18 months can now submit exemption requests directly to the DPRK Sanctions Committee instead of going through their country’s government.
This exception also applies to groups requesting an exemption to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people, “such as aid to fight against pandemic outbreaks.”
UN Security Council Resolution 2397, adopted in December 2017 in response to the North's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the previous month, requires humanitarian aid groups to receive sanctions exemptions by the committee in order to send assistance to North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft wrote in a Twitter post Tuesday, “Pleased to see the @UN 1718 Committee adopt a U.S. proposal making it easier and faster for humanitarian organizations to deliver urgent aid to the North Korean people. We're committed to finding innovative ways for humanitarian groups to continue their life-saving work in DPRK.”
“The timing of the revision is significant as Covid-19 becomes prolonged," said a South Korean Foreign Ministry official Tuesday. "It has been a real problem that humanitarian aid groups trying to assist North Korea have faced hurdles getting customs clearance, and even items that received exemptions were not able enter the country."
He added, “Our government has worked closely with the members of the UN Security Council, especially the United States, whenever our local civilian groups had projects on aiding North Korea. The United States is well aware of the importance of aid projects for North Korea, and amid the Covid-19 situation, actively worked to improve on the situation.”
So far, four South Korean aid groups have applied for an extension to sanctions exemptions and five more are in the process of seeking extensions, a Unification Ministry official told reporters in Seoul Tuesday, calling the revised guidelines “a way to reduce the difficulties felt in the process of aids groups applying for sanctions exemptions.”  
BY SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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