HUMANITARIAN CONTEXT |
Despite gradual improvements since the mid and late 1990s, the DPRK continues to suffer intricate humanitarian problems ranging from widespread food shortages to declining health system, lack of access to safe drinking water to deficit of basic agricultural inputs, just to mention few. All factors combined aggravate the situation for the DPRK population, especially vulnerable groups.
In 2008, two assessments in the area of food security were carried out jointly by WFP and FAO - Rapid Food Security Assessment (RFSA) in June and Crop and Food Security Assessment (CFSA) in October.
Domestic cereal production consistently falls below the needs of its population due to lack of sufficient fertilizer and fuel, declining soil fertility and structural factors. For the 2008/2009 marketing year, the CFSA estimated that the country would experience a cereal shortfall of 836,000 tonnes, leaving 8.7 million people in need of food assistance. Both assessments (RFSA and CFSA) show that the impact of food shortages has been unevenly divided amongst the population, with urban households in areas of low industrial activity particularly the Northeast) being the most affected. Young children, pregnant and lactating women and elderly people also form the most vulnerable category due to their particular dietary needs.
Based on the documented evidence, there is a broad consensus among UN agencies that worsened food insecurity and its serious humanitarian implications for population call for closely coordinated response by all resident UN agencies across various sectors – food, agriculture, nutrition, health, water and sanitation.
OPERATIONAL CONDITIONS FOR UN AGENCIES
The operating conditions, especially in terms of access, have improved for UN Agencies in 2008. First, the WFP program has been expanded to 131 counties in eight provinces, including the Northeast and some counties, earlier not accessible to humanitarian agencies. New Letter of Understanding allows WFP for up to 59 international aid workers (incl. Korean-speakers) to oversee the delivery of food, reestablishment of field offices and more flexibility and randomness in monitoring and assessments.
Further to WFP programe augmentation, the Government announced that other UN agencies were also allowed to re-start their work in 35 counties in the Northeast of the country, which had been closed for humanitarian aid agencies from late 2005. UNICEF and WHO managed to quickly launch their interventions in the Northeast thanks to the Rapid Response funding from the CERF.
UNFPA has been supporting national census in the DRPK. 13 international personnel had unlimited access to observe the enumeration phase conducted in October and visited 56 counties throughout the country on random sampling basis. The conclusion of the mission was that the field operation was of high quality, which could generate good raw data for further analysis.
The bilateral relations on the Korean peninsula reached their new low in 2008.
Amid escalated political tensions, last year there was no traditional bilateral assistance from the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the form of much needed fertilizer and food aid.
There was a considerable progress made in 2008 with regard to disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, submission of the DPRK's declaration on nuclear facilities and programs; and economic and energy assistance. The talks, however, ended in 2008 in a stalemate over the DPRK’s rejection of proposed sampling as part verification protocol.
The DPRK side complained on several occasions that disablement efforts had been outpacing the fuel deliveries and in response promised to “adjust the speed of disablement." Despite the unresolved verification issue, the six parties agreed in December 2008 to continue parallel implementation of the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and the provision of economic and energy assistance equivalent to one million tons of heavy fuel oil . In their last meeting in 2008 the parties did not set up time for the next round of negotiations.
Summary on progress towards UNDAF outcomes
Expanded UN Theme Groups (TGs) continued to be primary vehicle for promoting programmatic collaboration, coordination of activities and information-sharing between UN agencies as well as with non-UN partners. Some examples of common results include the following:
Based on an FAO initiative, the Agricultural Theme Group has drafted a discussion paper on themes of common concern within the agricultural sector. The initiative arises from both the findings of the 2008 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission and the experience of individual agencies implementing their varied but mutually supportive projects. Whilst there have been clear achievements due to technical assistance, further progress and a wider impact are limited by structural factors. It has therefore become necessary to explore ways for bringing about change in key areas. Specific points were identified that need to be addressed by aid providers in a consistent and coordinated matter. This paper when finalized, will be circulated and discussed with donors and diplomatic missions as a fund raising tool and also to ensure a consistent approach and a concerted strategy among international partners.
• HEALTH AND NUTRITION
Nation-wide cold chain assessment was jointly supported by UNICEF and WHO with following results: (1) a full inventory of all the cold chain equipment at all health facilities in the country; (2) formulation of cold chain policy for the country; and (3) development of a five year plan for cold chain replacement plan for the country.
Through extensive consultative process, the content of training package for section doctor was finalized within the Group: 13 modules of the package were agreed upon among all international health partners and with the Ministry of Public Health.
• WATER AND SANITATION
Water quality surveillance techniques meeting to ensure water quality up to standards prescribed by WHO was organized by UNICEF for all partners including international NGOs working in the sector with the participation of the concerned Ministries. A major conference on Decentralized Waste Water Management with participation of international experts was organized as part of the International Year of Sanitation.
Water and sanitation partners carried out joint stocktaking and review of lessons learnt from 2007 flood response. The findings contributed to the development of Inter-Agency Contingency Plan.
Water and Sanitation TG members jointly provided inputs to the Hygiene Promotion component of the training kit for section doctors developed by the Health TG (mentioned above).
• HIV/AIDS, TB AND MALARIA
UN Agencies provided support to formulation of the country’s application to Global Fund on TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS. Total of USD 65 mln for the TB and Malaria proposals were approved for the next five years. This is the first time for the DPRK to become a recipient of the Global Fund grants. The HIV proposal will be revised and resubmitted to the Global Fund in 2009.
• FOOD SECURITY
The Group served as the main information sharing, discussion and advocacy forum on food security issues, especially in relation to findings of the two important assessments carried out by UN in 2008 (mentioned above). The Group benefited from participation not only of operational agencies but also Embassies and other diplomatic missions.
• CONTINGENCY PLANNING (CP)
Clusters carried out stocktaking of 2007 August flood response and the results were then fed into a Inter-Agency Contingency Planning workshop for the IASC Country Team. The workshop was facilitated by colleagues from OCHA Regional Office in Bangkok. Inter-Agency CP Working Group was established to coordinate all CP-related activities.
Inter-agency Contingency Plan for possible natural disaster (floods) was jointly formulated by UN agencies, IFRC and international NGOs. Necessary preparedness measures on the part of resident international actors were identified and majority of those were implemented in 2008 ahead of potential flood season. National counterparts were briefed on the Contingency Plan strategy and activities.
• DATA AND STATISTICS
The main focus of the Group’s work in 2008 was to consolidate available data sources in the DPRK for MDGs monitoring as well as to prepare and plan for UN common programming exercise to commence in 2009. The results of the latter will be presented in the next section, Key Aspects of 2008 Work Plan.
Summary on progress in UN Reform
UN SYSTEM IN THE DPRK
The UN Country Team in the DPRK is currently comprised of five resident UN agencies - FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.
Since the suspension of UNDP program and departure of UNDP Resident Representative/UN Resident Coordinator in March 2007, WFP Country Director has been acting as UN Resident Coordinator and Designated Official for security.
Normal work of the UN Country Team, UN Theme Groups, weekly inter-agency meetings and other coordinating mechanism have been maintained.
In absence of allocation for the DPRK from UNDOCO for 2008, funds for UN coordination activities were raised from SIDA. Donor support allowed to keep the post and services of international Coordination Officer (under WFP contract) and carry out a number of common initiatives, captured in the 2008 Results and Use of Funds section of this report.
Contacts on common UN issues with non-resident agencies, namely IFAD, UNESCO, UNEP, UNIDO and UNESCAP have been handled through UN RC Office.
Sustaining the Resident Coordinator’s System (RCS) in the DPRK after UNDP’s departure, despite lack of support/guidance from UNDOCO or UNDP, in its capacity of a designated manager of the RCS, can be seen as a good example of the UN reform at the country level in action in particularly difficult circumstances.
Key aspects of the proposed 2009 workplan
Rolling-out a new joint programming process will be the key focus of UN joint activities in the DPRK in 2009.
The current UN Strategic Framework (UNSF) for the DPRK was formulated originally to cover 2007-2009. In 2008 it was extended by one year per the joint decision of the UNCT and Government, and subsequent agreement from the Regional Directors’ Team (RDT).
In its recent annual retreat, the UN Country Team agreed to formulate a new UNSF for the DPRK with the onset of 2011. Representatives of FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO broadly agreed on the following:
• Propose to the Government to base a new UNSF on the Millennium Declaration (MD) and the MDGs with their target date of 2015, and thus to have a new framework cover five-year period of 2011- 2015;
• Having reviewed on-going and planned data collection and analytical activities in sectors of the UN expertise and engagement in the DPRK, the UNCT agreed, instead of a full Common Country Assessment (CCA) process, to carry out sectoral analyses. The analyses will assess country’s situation in relation to the MD, MDGs and other internationally agreed obligations. Such consensus will be communicated to the RDT;
• Since most critical data (from the census, nutrition assessment and MICS) will become available towards the end of 2009, and because UNDP Country Office can be expected fully operational probably by mid-2009, the UNCT decided to slightly extend the timeline of the UNSF formulation. This will enable utilization of credible data for UN strategic analyses and planning but will also have implications for individual country program formulation processes. UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF country offices will need to seek approval from their respective regional bureaus for their next Country Programme documents to be submitted for Executive Boards review in September 2010 rather than in June. The request for later submission of country programmes will be included in the communication to the RDT;
• UNCT together with the Government will seek to fully engage non-resident agencies as well as resident international partners in the process, as appropriate;
• UNCT will be exploring opportunities for joint UN programmes and common funding thereof, including through forthcoming expanded “Delivering as One” window;
Other key elements of the UNCT work plan include roll-out of common services programme; enhancing common preparedness for potential floods; joint resource mobilization; common trainings for UN staff; and enhancing common security and safety for UN staff with focus on medical conditions and business continuity requirements.
The year 2009 will be a critical juncture for many aspects of UN work in the country – from common strategic planning and programming to common services, common preparedness for natural disaster relief to safety and security of UN personnel on the ground. Therefore, the UNCT expects and looks forward to receiving greater support from UNDOCO than in 2008.
Like in the previous year, the UNCT is raising funds for planned coordination initiatives and common activities from donors and through Agencies’ cost-sharing. It is hoped, however, that this year an adequate allocation will be made for the DPRK by the UNDOCO. The Work Plan section of this report contains sober estimates of most critical funding needs for 2009.
Similar to last year, it is recommended that the situation of the UNCT in DPRK after suspension of UNDP programme should be analyzed and lessons drawn for enhancement of the firewall between RC System and UNDP.
Absence of financial allocation from UNDOCO to the UNCT in 2008, difficulty in appointing a permanent RC or even formally designating an acting RC according to existing procedures, lack of support to RC Office are clear illustration of the shortcomings of the firewall system, which should be addressed.
The UNCT plans to have its experiences and lessons learnt documented, which could be then shared and discussed with Agencies HQs and UNDOCO.