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Human Rights Situation in North Korea Needs Reforms

In all areas related to the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including health, housing, education, social security, employment, food, water and sanitation, much of the country’s population is being left behind

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United Nations special rapporteur on the rights situation in North Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana attends a press conference following his report on the country to the Human Rights Council, March 12, 2018 in Geneva. A year later, little has changed. (VOA)

Despite more than a year of international engagement and promises of economic reform by North Korea’s leaders, the human rights situation in the isolated country remains dire, a top U.N. rights official said Friday.

Blocked by the government from visiting North Korea, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea Tomas Quintana visited South Korea this week as part of an investigation that will be provided to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a factory in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, Aug. 7, 2018. (VOA)

Noting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has embarked on an effort to improve living conditions by focusing on economic development, Quintana said his preliminary findings showed those efforts had not translated into improvements in the lives of most people.

“The fact is, that with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the last year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged, and continues to be extremely serious,” he told reporters at a briefing in Seoul.

“In all areas related to the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including health, housing, education, social security, employment, food, water and sanitation, much of the country’s population is being left behind,” Quintana added.

North Korea, Humaqn Rights
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in inside the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, April 27, 2018.

Left out of talks

North Korea denies human rights abuses and says the issue is used by the international community as a political ploy to isolate it.

Human rights were noticeably absent from talks between Kim and the leaders of South Korea and the United States last year, over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But in December, the United States imposed sanctions on an additional three North Korean officials, including a top aide to Kim, for serious rights abuses and censorship.

North Korea’s foreign ministry warned in a statement after the December sanctions were announced, that the measures could lead to a return to “exchanges of fire” and North Korea’s disarming could be blocked forever.

Kim acknowledgement

While noting he had “no specific information” on whether international sanctions were hurting ordinary North Koreans, Quintana said the sanctions targeted the economy as a whole and “raised questions” about the possible impact on the public.

He cited a reference by Kim in his new year message to the need to improve living standards, saying it was a rare acknowledgement of the economic and social hardships faced by many North Koreans.

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Still, the United Nations has confirmed the continued use of political prison camps housing “thousands” of inmates, Quintana said, quoting one source as saying “the whole country is a prison.”

He said witnesses who recently left North Korea reported facing widespread discrimination, labor exploitation and corruption in daily life.

There is also a “continuing pattern of ill-treatment and torture” of defectors who escaped to China only to be returned to North Korea by Chinese authorities, Quintana said. (VOA)

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Development And Protection Of Citizens – Duties Of Elected Political Executive

In a democratic dispensation the first duties of the elected political executive governing the nation are to bring about development of all and ensure protection of citizens

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Public Safety, Development, Government, Politics, Duties, safety, executive
a policy decision of great administrative value was taken by the Centre to put the newly inducted officers of all these services together for a short 'Foundation Course.' VOA

In a democratic dispensation the first duties of the elected political executive governing the nation are to bring about development of all and ensure protection of citizens from internal and external threats. The political leadership exercises the sovereign power to this end through the bureaucratic machinery — that includes the police — headed by the officers of All India and Central Services who were recruited, trained and placed in various wings of the government to implement the policies flowing from the top. Years ago a policy decision of great administrative value was taken by the Centre to put the newly inducted officers of all these services together for a short ‘Foundation Course’ at what is now the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoorie, before they dispersed to join the establishments of their respective services at other places for a full length specialised training.

The foundation course had the merit of letting all probationers know each other and putting them on a common grid of understanding of the great cause of national governance that they were going to share in their long years of public service ahead. It would lay the turf for an assured cooperation among them whenever they would have an occasion to work together in future to carry the mission of governance forward. It all began in 1960 the year of my joining the IPS and I could see the benefit of that participation in my own experience. A long time later when I became the Director Intelligence Bureau, I interacted with the Secretaries at the Centre and the Chief Secretaries in the states whom I had known at Mussoorie — which made the sharing of thoughts with them on matters of national importance so easy. What worked was an understanding that we were all together in serving a higher cause.

Public Safety, Development, Government, Politics, Duties
Headed by the officers of All India and Central Services who were recruited, trained and placed in various wings of the government to implement the policies flowing from the top. Wikimedia Commons

Today India is grappling with the challenge of pursuing economic growth of a nation of 1.3 billion people spread across far corners of the vast country and placed in uneven conditions of development. The officers of the Civil Services on whom falls the responsibility of implementing the development policies of the Centre are finding it easier to coordinate the efforts that cut across various ministries and institutions — somewhere because there are no psychological barriers amongst them. In the domain of development they had enough shared experience to put their heads together in a meaningful way. They had knowledge of various facets of what constitutes development — financial, agriculture, infrastructure, forestry, public health and so on. The recall of the foundation course definitely helped in all of this.

While the orientation of Civil Services to the tasks of development is adequate the national scene points to the need for an awareness programme for all Civil Services — as they advanced in their career — on the share of responsibility that would fall on them directly or indirectly, in the sphere of securing the nation and the citizens at large against threats both internal and external. Security for all is also the concern for all and should not be deemed to be something relegated completely to the care of a national security set up and the specialised agencies besides the Police. Warren Christopher, the then US Secretary of State, famously said in 1993 that ‘national security was inseparable from economic security’ and today it is known that the targets of a ‘proxy war’ include economic assets and the industrial life-line — since damaging these weakened the opponent far more effectively than an open war would do. Those handling governance at decision making levels have to have an understanding of the economic dimensions of national security.

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For all of this it becomes a requirement of the time that senior officials across the spectrum of governance — who are adept at handling development — should also be fully informed of the national security imperatives that the governance had to reckon with. A little exposure to what was the state of affairs on the national security front and the developments of strategic import happening in the world outside, in an early stage of their training might prove quite rewarding for them. In the age of knowledge that is upon us ignorance is not a bliss and an awareness of the environ in which the national government was responding to the call of both development and security would be a great asset. A short module of discussion on matters related to national security in the Foundation Course for All India and Central Services would go a long way in providing a minimal basic orientation on the subject that would remain with the senior officers for the future and contribute to a sound decision making by them in later years.

Subjects that would qualify for being included in the presentations by professionals and strategic analysts include National Security Scenario & Policy Responses, Terrorism & Maoism, Disaster Management, Dimensions of Drug Traffic and India’s National Security Set Up & Intelligence Agencies. Every functionary of the government — and even the citizens at large — ought to be aware of their responsibility towards safeguarding national security. We are in an era of covert offensives, an open external attack of the enemy is not the only threat to the nation. Our defence forces are always in a state of readiness to deal with an open warfare. In the Indian context the reality of a proxy war being conducted by a hostile neighbour underscores the importance of our counter-intelligence capabilities that security is all about. Both defence and security have to work together to produce a perfect response. Kashmir has been a testing ground for the success of Intelligence based operations of army and para military forces — the challenge being of neutralising the infiltrated terrorist without collateral damage. Those who man the senior positions in the civil side of the government can benefit from an early exposure to an orientation programme on the lines suggested above. (IANS)