Democratic People's Republic of Korea
During the month of September, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) informed the S G, OCHA, UN Agencies and the international community in Pyongyang that it would close all humanitarian programmes at the end of 2005, saying it would rather receive development assistance, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Furthermore, the government requested that NGOs terminate their operations in the DPRK.While the government had appreciated the efforts of the humanitarian community, it was of the view that the humanitarian situation had significantly improved. The September announcement followed the DPRK’s decision not to have a CAP in 2005 and its request to OCHA to close down its office in Pyongyang at the end of 2005. Consequently, at the end of 2005, OCHA closed its office and the distribution of essential medicines and food commodities came largely to a halt.Most NGOs had also started to wind down their operations.
Although the humanitarian situation in the DPRK has improved since the mid and late 1990s, humanitarian assistance continued to play a vital role in safeguarding the well-being of millions of vulnerable persons. Despite an improved harvest in 2005, the food security situation continues to be precarious. The health infrastructure is poor and international organisations were the most important source for the supply of essential medicines. There is a genuine risk that the important gains in reversing the effects of malnutrition will be lost. Moreover, the significant impact in reducing morbidity and mortality may be compromised.
- Continue to support the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) in the coordination of humanitarian activities, in particular contingency planning, needs assessments, programme planning and implementation, and monitoring and evaluation
- Raise awareness of the application of human rights and humanitarian principles
- Strengthen the presence and capacity of international NGOs, including through the use of the OCHA NGO Funding Mechanism
- Strive to strengthen the DPRK’s national capacity to deal with and mitigate natural disasters
OCHA continued its role as the secretariat for the HC during 2005, convening and participating in regular inter-agency and sector meetings. OCHA also acted as the central agency for receiving and disseminating information for the international community. OCHA continued to produce bi-monthly bulletins, which were distributed to a wide variety of agencies, partners, donors, embassies and academic institutions worldwide. OCHA’s internet café was also fully utilised, and provided NGOs and other partners in Pyongyang with a means of accessing the internet on a daily basis. Due to technical difficulties, the humanitarian information website was closed during the year, though it remained open for historical viewing purposes.
OCHA, via the NGO Fund, supported nine different projects for five NGOs in 2005, covering a range of activities including quick impact emergency response projects, hospital rehabilitation, and support projects to orphanages and orthopaedic institutions.
OCHA worked closely with the Red Cross movement in attempting to address the ongoing issues of responding to natural disasters, and participated in assessments missions after summer floods.
A document entitled A Framework for International Cooperation was developed with the support of all international partners, and was initially endorsed by the government. Following the government’s decision not to participate in the CAP for 2005, this document was designed as a planning mechanism to ensure a coherent and strategic approach to humanitarian and development-orientated activities. At the government’s request, the Framework document did not include any specific projects or monetary values. However, it did include a humanitarian analysis, sectoral chapters and an overview of operational constraints. Furthermore, OCHA mobilised partners to provide projects and funding requirements that, in turn, were submitted to donors upon request.
Regarding the mainstreaming of gender, which OCHA intended to pursue in 2005, the office again found little opportunity to introduce gender-related policies into the broader community, given the cultural background of DPRK, which is a traditionally male-dominated society.
OCHA continued to play a key role in the overall coordination mechanisms within the DPRK and fully supported the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) in his activities in developing strategic policies and coordinated responses to the fluctuating operating environment during 2005. The Framework document was warmly welcomed and utilised by international partners and the donor community as the planning tool for activities in the DPRK.
During 2005, OCHA continued to emphasise the importance of principled humanitarian aid, including unconditional access for all partners. While acknowledging that the DPRK had “security concerns”, OCHA incorporated many of the tenets of humanitarian advocacy in the Framework for International Cooperation document.
The NGO Funding Mechanism in DPRK, managed by OCHA, has been generously funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) for several years. The mechanism has provided a valuable tool in supporting international NGOs with emergency funds for quick impact projects; sponsoring new initiatives, feasibility studies and pilot projects; and developing capacity building projects for DPRK institutions through training programmes. In 2005, nine projects were funded for five NGOs, compared to eight projects for six NGOs in 2004. Three international NGOs sought to establish operations in DPRK 2005. However, despite advocacy efforts by the RC/HC, OCHA and the donor community, the government would not grant permanent residency to the NGOs.
The lead agency in DPRK for natural disasters is the Federation of the Red Cross. OCHA worked closely in supporting its advocacy efforts during 2005. OCHA continued to suggest to the government that there were opportunities to be involved with INSARAG, and training opportunities for national colleagues to participate in UNDAC training. However, given the change in position by the government during the course of 2005, OCHA was not successful in engaging the government to participate.