Situation analysis of children and women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – 2017

from UN Children's Fund
Published on 09 May 2017

Executive Summary

Over the period of the Millennium Development Goals (2000–2015), the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea), especially women and children, have suffered tremendously from factors beyond their control.

These include the breakup of the Socialist bloc, leading to serious shortages of food, energy, and a reduction in economic growth rates, as well as recurring climate-related challenges resulting in a severe, chronic, and underfunded humanitarian emergency. Despite the exemption granted to humanitarian assistance, the imposition of sanctions, coupled with donor fatigue, has reduced the availability of resources to address even the most pressing of life-threatening situations. As a result of many complex factors, several key social indicators, such as under-five mortality and maternal mortality, are worse than before 1990 (despite significant improvements since the year 2000).

This Situation Analysis (Sit-An) is based upon a detailed review of all available sources of data and information, complemented by a series of key informant interviews carried out in collaboration with government and development partners to better ground the analysis in the realities of the country (as listed in Annex 2). Key stakeholders at the country and regional levels have reviewed the draft document for quality assurance and validation. It was prepared as part of the UNICEF Programming process that contributed to the UN Strategic Framework 2017–2021), which aims to support and reinforce national efforts to improve the well-being of the people of DPR Korea – paying attention to the most vulnerable groups. In the context of human rights-based programming, the essence of UNICEF’s work in DPR Korea is about sharing international lessons learned, and the provision of technical expertise and resources for life saving interventions.

As a Member State of the UN, DPR Korea has committed itself to the Sustainable Development Goals and their targets, adopted by the General Assembly in October 2015. At the country level, however, there is a need to carefully prioritize and sequence them. In the jointly agreed Strategic Framework, the Government and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) chose to focus their efforts on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 15, with goal 10 (on reducing inequality) and goal 17 (on global partnerships) as cross-cutting considerations. This document provides supporting data and analysis relating to SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10, to which UNICEF specifically contributes.

The objectives of the Situation Analysis are as follows:

• Document progress made and identify key challenges hindering the realization of the rights and welfare of children and women, as well as their causes, as a means to strengthen planning and programming for child rights;

• Identify humanitarian and development barriers and bottlenecks, which, if addressed, could have a multiplier effect on improving the situation of children and women;

• Provide evidence and analysis relating to climate and disaster risks, as well as the national capacities to address them, in order to support UNICEF’s contributions towards joint efforts aimed at strengthening the resilience of children and women in the face of recurrent crises;

• Serve as a comprehensive reference on the situation of children and women in DPR Korea, which will provide a source of advocacy, a tool for resource mobilization, and contribute to national decision-making processes; and,

• Offer programmatic recommendations to address geographical, gender, age, disability, and other disparities, and accelerate progress towards the SDGs and fulfillment of human rights conventions, with an emphasis on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), women’s health and well-being, and reducing vulnerability to hazards.

As such the Situation Analysis will serve to inform planned surveys and studies, such as MICS 2017 and the Census 2018, through identifying data gaps in the various dimensions of women and children’s rights.

DPR Korea has a well-articulated network of social services reaching down to the village level, and has made significant progress in increasing enrolment in both primary and secondary education, as well as decreasing mortality due to preventable causes. However, progress on key social indicators has been uneven across regions, with Pyongyang city generally faring the best, and provinces in the Northeast faring less well. Noticeable gender and age inequities in health and welfare among men, women, and children were also identified. As a result, there is still much work to be done to ensure full and equitable achievement of children’s and women’s rights.

Having reviewed a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data, this Sit-An has identified four overarching challenges, and several supplementary challenges, that are preventing the full realization of children’s and women’s rights in DPR Korea. These include:

1 . Insufficient availability of resources for the social sectors resulting in deteriorating health, education and WASH infrastructure, which is compromising the accessibility and quality of social services.

2 . Recurring humanitarian crises causing loss of life, increased illness and malnutrition, and interruptions to schooling reinforced by damage to WASH, and education and health infrastructure.

3 . Socio-economic, education, and health disparities between urban and rural areas, between males and females, and between households and provinces.

4 . Inadequate gender-disaggregated and geographically specific qualitative and quantitative data in key areas, making it difficult to fully assess, plan, and monitor interventions to address gaps in achievement.