American NGOs appealed to US government for sustaining aid to DPR Korea: Korean-Americans supported the appeal

(Washington, DC, March 7, 2003) The U.S. government's recent decision to send as much as 100,000 metric tons of food aid to DPR Korea through the World Food Program is a news welcomed by the Institute for Strategic Reconciliation (ISR) and NGOs working in DPRK in the past several years. The US State Department's announcement made on February 25 was pleasantly accepted specially by those American NGOs that sent a letter on January 15, 2003 to appeal to US government for sustaining humanitarian aid to DPRK.
"The Bush administration's decision to further humanitarian aid to DPRK "without regard to U.S. concerns about North Korea's policies" certainly continues the "Child knows no politics" humanitarian doctrine of former President Reagan," according to President Young Chun of the ISR (WWW.ISR2020.ORG) who has made several visits to DPRK for developmental relief programs in public health. The ISR, the first think tank established in 1998 by Korean-Americans for international conflict resolution and reconciliation research, and relief and development programs, has sent a letter along with major American NGOs to the US government, encouraging humanitarian aid to DPR Korea on January 15, 2003.

American private voluntary organizations who cosigned the letter were: Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, American Friends Service Committee, AmeriCares, Baptist World Aid, Holt International Children's Services, Institute for Strategic Reconciliation, Inc., International Center, International Rescue Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, Mercy Corps, Operation USA, Refugees International, and World Vision.

Following is the text of the letter well shared in the US government and initially sent to: Andrew Natsios, Administrator of U.S. Agency for International Development, Ambassador Charles Pritchard and Special Envoy for Negotiations with DPRK of US Department of State, and James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of US Department of State.

As representatives of American private voluntary organizations working in North Korea, or on North Korea policy, we commend the stance of this Administration, which has been to honor President Ronald Reagan's maxim that "a hungry child knows no politics." We believe the past aid contributed by the U.S. has made a difference in the lives of millions of North Koreans, particularly children and nursing and pregnant women.

In June of 2002, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a "baseline" commitment of 155,000 metric tons for the year 2002. USAID noted that additional contributions might be considered if there is "verifiable progress" in monitoring and access, and if a countrywide nutritional survey is implemented according to international standards.

We share U.S. government concerns about monitoring and access. We note that both the WFP and NGOs have made some progress over the last several years in improving our relationships and cooperation with North Korean representatives. We believe that with continued engagement and firm negotiations, further progress will be possible, such as increased access, random visits, the provision by the DPRK of a list of all recipient institutions, and the routine inclusion of fluent Korean speakers on monitoring teams.

We are concerned that without a strong USG emphasis on negotiating with North Korea regarding the measures necessary for the U.S. to renew humanitarian assistance, essential food will not be donated to the DPRK. We remain concerned about the potential impact on North Korean citizens if the international donor community is unable to ensure the necessary food goes to the DPRK and reaches the most vulnerable.

A nutritional survey took place from October 7-25, jointly conducted by the WFP and UNICEF, with twenty research teams deployed in the field, supported by ten data entry teams and ten logistics teams. Access to the inaccessible counties was not granted for the survey. However, the 2002 survey shows substantial improvements in comparison with the 1998 nutritional survey. The survey samples increased in size by two-thirds, there was improved international technical assistance and monitoring of the sampling procedures, and disaggregated data will allow analysis of results from individual provinces.

These survey results will be available later this month, providing the U.S. and the international community with an opportunity to renew dialogue both on monitoring concerns, and consider necessary food aid from the US and other donor countries to ensure life-saving levels are maintained. We strongly recommend that such dialogue not be put on hold.

Time is running out for the most vulnerable in North Korea. Adhering to the belief that food aid should not be political, we call for a means of quickly and efficiently addressing monitoring concerns in such a way that ensures no loss of life.

For questions or partnership opportunities to work in DPRK contact the Institute for Strategic Reconciliation at:

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