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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The UN committee charged with monitoring sanctions on North Korea last week continued to approve months-old humanitarian exemption requests, this time to allow a French NGO to ship equipment to the DPRK for a number of food security projects.
In a letter dated August 1, the 1718 Sanctions Committee approved the shipment of items for three projects first requested by Triangle Génération Humanitaire (TGH) in February, when only a partial approval was granted for two other projects listed relating to elderly care.
The committee has now “decided to approve the remaining requests” which will allow projects such as one to “improve diet diversity by increasing vegetables production” to move forward.
A variety of items will also be imported to North Korea for projects to “improve the child institutions’ resilience to food shocks, by upholding some local resources for the development of a sustainable innovative aquaculture.”
The TGH website says the diet diversity project aims to benefit “the most vulnerable populations” — 42,578 people — in Sohung, North Hwanghae Province through “support to three farms and one production unit.”
Its stated goals are to increase vegetable production and post-production storage, hygiene, delivery, and management practices, as well as capacity building for locals to manage the process.
With the exemption, a range of expensive, high-tech lab equipment technically prohibited for export to North Korea will now be transferred into the country — purchased with the project’s budget of 1.2 million euros, mostly funded by the European Union.
The annex to the latest UN exemption, drawn up by TGH in January, details numerous decentralized wastewater treatment system (DEWATS) components, including equipment to test the system’s “efficiency before spreading human waste on crops” as well as for “soil analysis and fertility evaluation.”
There are multiple aspects to the list of items for the other project focused on child nutrition and “sustainable innovative aquaculture,” which seeks to improve local institutions, one experimental fish farm in Pukchang, and two satellite fish farms in nearby areas.
One is in the provision of four laptops, a printer, and other electronic office equipment “for capacity building of [the] Bureau of Aquaculture,” a North Korean government agency under the Ministry of Fisheries.
Two dry-erase boards, likely sanctioned due to their metal components, were approved for a project office in Pukchang, 21 solar freezers were approved to be shipped to various locations for “storage of fresh fish and other food in children institutions,” and a truck will be allowed to be imported for the “distribution of fish and other food to children institutions” in the county.
Dozens of other items in the February request were labeled as in “urgent” need of procurement at the time for projects “to improve food processing,” to “measure water quality,” for “experimentation of local fish nutrition,” and for “insects production to improve protein intakes in local fish nutrition.”
Finally among the sanctioned items now approved are a 4×4 vehicle, spare parts, and tools “to be used by TGH for monthly field missions” based out of Pyongyang, as well as one laptop for office use.
The TGH website says the Pukchang aquaculture project aims to benefit 13,000 children, with a budget of 777,000 euros funded in full by the EU.
It says assistance is needed due to the shortcomings of the state’s Public Distribution System (PDS) — traditionally the North Korean government’s way of providing daily food rations to its citizens.
Young children in the countryside, according to TGH, are sent to daycare institutions which rely on cooperative farms for meals — farms which have been cut out of the PDS and thus face irregular production on their own.
“Essential needs of the children in institutions remain uncovered and their diet lacks diversity and quantity,” the project description says, adding that “access to animal proteins is infrequent and inadequate.”
As a result, the project aims to provide more fish protein for rural children in Pukchang through supporting local farms, which apparently lack adequate support from the Ministry of Fisheries.
Other items in the UN exemption annex were labeled in green to indicate “goods that do not fall under the sanctions but are included in the list to provide UNSC with a comprehensive view of imports and to facilitate the respect of the humanitarian exemption during import by domestic regulations in China.”
This appears to be in response to the reluctance of some companies to deal with shipments to North Korea for fear of secondary sanctions, and includes components for building greenhouses, plastic buckets, bowls, and wooden boxes.
In the past, other organizations have had to receive approval to import plastic buckets which included sanctioned components such as metal handles.
TGH’s latest exemption requires the organization ship all items in as few shipments as possible and to complete the transfer before January 25 next year, according to the 1718 Sanctions Committee website.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Triangle Génération Humanitaire