Friday, August 16, 2013

Food aid to North Korea saves lives — it doesn’t change minds

There is no question that Karin's heart is pure in her single minded approach to saving lives and there is no question she is responsible for helping to save many north Korean lives.  I am somewhat surprised that she did not mention President Park's "trustpolitik" because I think that policy actually supports Karin's line of argument.  
Murphy is asking the right question. Well-distributed food aid matters on the ground.  During famines, it saves lives and during shortages it ameliorates the tragic effects of chronic malnutrition especially up to the age of two. From a humanitarian perspective, the conversation should end there. Food aid should be given purely for humanitarian, not political, reasons.
However, I think that Karin probably does not want to talk about it because although President Park will provide humanitarian aid "for humanitarian, not political, reasons" she is able to do so based on the security guarantees that rest of the foundation of the strength of the ROK/US military alliance.

Food aid to North Korea saves lives — it doesn’t change minds
August 16th, 2013
Author: Karin J. Lee, Committee on North Korea
Well-implemented humanitarian aid can save lives and build relationships between the giver and the receiver.

But there are limits. Food aid will not permanently change the security environment on the Korean peninsula, and humanitarian relief should not have security objectives.

US aid to North Korea has been linked at some level to security issues for nearly 20 years. As Andrew Natsisos relates, although the US government responded negatively to a DPRK request for assistance in 1994, the privately funded provision of medicines following a subsequent cholera outbreak ‘had a salutary effect during the negotiations, (of) building goodwill among … normally suspicious North Korean interlocutors’.

This made sense back in 1994: the United States and the DPRK were beginning a process with the potential to lead to normalised relations and an end to hostility. At that time the humanitarian gesture of providing food aid could have a positive ripple effect and help build trust. There’s nothing wrong with that additional political purpose.

Nothing, that is, unless security objectives supplant the primary goal of meeting humanitarian needs. The Congressional Research Service asserts that food aid was linked to North Korea’s participation in talks during the 1990s. While former Clinton administration officials maintain that ‘there was no policy, virtual or otherwise, of “food for meetings”’, Republican critics of that administration’s engagement approach found fault with both the way it linked aid to security objectives and the way the aid was monitored.

When President Bush took office, the amount of US government assistance gradually declined, hitting zero in 2006. Food aid did not resume until 2008, when the United States and the DPRK negotiated improved monitoring mechanisms. The United States demonstrated the emphasis on humanitarian standards rather than security goals by suspending shipments to the World Food Programme when the monitoring agreement wasn’t fully implemented. In contrast, shipments distributed by US NGOs under the agreement were continued.

Under the Obama administration, the link to security issues returned with a vengeance. In January 2011, the DPRK asked for food aid. In the following months US NGOs, the US government, the EU, and UNICEF and the World Food Programme conducted separate need assessments that reportedly found the same thing: no signs of famine but widespread chronic malnutrition and pockets of acute malnutrition, with concern that fragile conditions could easily worsen. Yet the Obama administration didn’t act at any time in 2011.
(Continued at the link below)

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