UN pointman urges aid for North Korea

11th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The UN pointman on North Korea called on the international community to provide relief aid to the impoverished communist state, saying that support should not be dependent on political conditions.

However, Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur who has not been allowed by Pyongyang to visit North Korea, stressed that with any help should come with a requirement for access.

In a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday and which has been spotted on its website, Darusman said his call for the international community to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea "should nevertheless not be contingent on political conditions."

"The human rights obligations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are in no sense contingent on the provisions of external humanitarian assistance by the international community but merely an impetus for emergency response," he added.

Darusman's call came as the country suffered from increasingly serious food shortages and high malnutrition rates.

The price of rice has also more than doubled from between 400 and 500 won in the first half of 2010 to around 900 won, noted the special rapporteur.

In addition, serious floods in August 2010 heightened the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Despite his call for international community action, Darusman acknowledged that it was clear that there must be monitoring to ensure that any aid provided reaches those most in need.

North Korea had to respect the "no access, no aid" policy of the United Nations, he stressed.

Due to Pyongyang's failure to grant access to aid agencies and international ire at the communist state's nuclear programme, international aid funding has dropped substantially.

The United States in 2008 pledged 500,000 tonnes of rice but shipments stopped the following year amid questions over distribution transparency.

South Korea, which halted an annual 400,000 tonnes of rice in contributions in 2008, began sending emergency aid following last year's floods. It pulled the plug when the North began shelling a border island.

Just $5.6 million has been pledged by the international community for the country so far this year, with Sweden as the only country outside of UN agencies that has promised any aid, according to UN data.

© 2011 AFP

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