The UN’s 1718 Committee last last month granted the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) the latest in a line of humanitarian exemptions required by organizations to deliver certain goods to North Korea, the Committee’s website showed on Thursday.
The IFRC exemption represents the eighth such notice issued to humanitarian organizations in January alone, with UNICEF, the Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends of Korea, First Steps Health Society, Handicap International, World Vision, and Swiss Humanitarian Aid receiving similar permissions.
“I have the honour to refer to your letter dated 16 January 2019, requesting the Committee for an exemption, in accordance with paragraph 25 of Security Council resolution 2397 (2017), to engage in humanitarian activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” a letter dated January 31 and signed by 1718 Committee Chair Christoph Heusgen read.
“Following due consideration, the Committee has decided to approve the requested exemption in the abovementioned letter, in accordance with paragraph 25 of Security Council resolution 2397.”
According to an attached annex, the IFRC has received exemptions for a range of medical goods, water and sanitation-related equipment, 500 bicycles for Red Cross volunteers, and items related to emergency operations in the event of accidents in-country.
Among the medical goods are midwifery kits to ensure the health and safety of pregnant women and newborns, as well as hospital kits for the treatment of infectious diseases.
The IFRC provided a cost assessment for some, but not all, of the goods it plans to ship, which amounted to over USD$100,000.
The organization plans to ship the goods listed by the end of March this year, and has six months from the date of the exemption to do so.
The exemption process for the IFRC appears to have been much quicker than for other organizations granted permissions this year, too, with the dates in other exemption letters on the Committee’s website showing that some humanitarian groups had been waiting for their requests to be processed since late last year.
Christian Friends of Korea, for instance, had to reapply for an exemption in September 2018 following an original submission in February that year. Its exemption approval letter was dated January 21.
Given the IFRC’s request for an exemption was dated January 16, the 1718 Committee acceptance of the request on January 31 suggests a mere 15-day turnaround.
The rapid approval speaks to something of a shift in policy on humanitarian engagement towards North Korea, with a late December announcement by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun having likely played a significant role.
That announcement saw Biegun say the U.S. would be reviewing its policy on humanitarian assistance, with the Special Representative later confirming at a meeting with NGOs that the U.S. would work to better facilitate aid delivery to the country via the UN.
According to an attendee at that meeting, Biegun acknowledged a backlog of exemption requests currently facing the 1718 Committee and that these would be pushed forward.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Homes in Kumchon destroyed by flooding and landslides | IFRC
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