UN Development Programme to withdraw two remaining staff from DPR Korea

At the request of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will withdraw its remaining two international staff members from Pyongyang early next month, but both will be able to facilitate an ongoing audit of the agency's activities in the country, a UN spokesperson announced today.

The two staff will leave the DPRK capital on 3 May. "They will proceed to Beijing and will be accessible to facilitate the audit," Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has agreed to provide storage and support for its current office assets, as well as to make any necessary further payments on behalf of UNDP, said Ms. Montas, adding that all UNDP records are secured.

UNDP's programme in DPRK remains formally in suspension, and the agency will retain its lease on its Country Office building in Pyongyang until further notice.

The agency announced the suspension last month, and said it would withdraw all but two of its international staff over the failure to implement conditions set up following reports that UN funds improperly went to the Government.

These conditions included ending all hard currency payments and discontinuing sub-contracting of national staff via Government recruitment as of 1 March, as well as adjusting the content of current programmes to support sustainable human development goals.

The DPRK has been subject to UN Security Council sanctions since October following its proclaimed nuclear test.

The internal audit was triggered by press reports suggesting that the agency's own audits raised concerns about payments being channelled to the Government.

After the issue came to light in January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promised an external, system-wide probe of UN activities in the field, targeting as his first priority countries where hard currency transactions, independence of staff hiring and access to review local projects were an issue and beginning with the DPRK.

The UN does not anticipate that the suspension of UNDP's programme in DPRK and the departure of its staff will have an impact on the audit of other UN agencies in the country, Ms. Montas said.