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UN Human Rights Accuses North Korean Government of Starving its People While Building up Military Power

U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival

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starving, military power
FILE - A man stands among sacks of wheat on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, January 29, 2014. VOA

The U.N. human rights office has accused the North Korean government of starving its people while building up its military power. It finds people are trapped in a system of endemic corruption and repression, which keeps them mired in lifelong poverty and deprivation.

The report is based on first-hand accounts of more than 200 escapees interviewed in South Korea during the past two years. Witnesses say North Korea’s social and economic system is based on the pervasive practice of bribing officials. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival.

“The constant threat of arrest and prosecution provides State officials with a powerful means to extort money and other favors from people desperate to avoid detention in inhumane conditions,” she said. “In addition, the living conditions and treatment of detainees can also depend on the payment of bribes.”

poverty, military power
The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. Pixabay

The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. While people are scrounging around for food and other basic necessities, the report says huge resources continue to be spent on the military.

Official figures put the percentage of the national budget allocated to the military at between 14 and 16 percent. But Hurtado says estimates by non-governmental organizations believe that sum could be as high as 50 percent.

She tells VOA her agency acknowledges the importance of U.S. talks with North Korea in efforts to try to reduce its nuclear arsenal. But she says human rights have to be at the core of these negotiations.

poverty, north korea
U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival. Pixabay

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“It is clear that all the money, all the energy, all the brains that are used to focus on nuclear issues and nuclear development, if it would be focused on raising the standard of living of the population, the situation would be a different one,” she said. The report recommends drastic reforms in the criminal code and, especially in the establishment of the rule of law in North Korea.

In assessing the findings, Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet says people must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion. This, simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living. (VOA)

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By 2030, African Children to Make ‘Half of the World’s Poor’

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030

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Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
The United Nations reports more than a half million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape the ravages of war. Wikimedia Commons

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030, according to a new report.

The stark warning comes as more than 150 world leaders prepare to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in New York beginning Sept. 25 to work on tackling global poverty.

The United Nations has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No. 1 on the list is eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. But the world will fall well short of that target, according to the report by Save the Children and the Overseas Development Institute, which delivers a devastating verdict on global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty among children in Africa.

“On our projection, children in Africa will account for around 55% of all extreme poverty in the world by 2030,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

An estimated 87 million African children will be born into poverty each year in the 2020s, according to the report, which also says about 40% of Africans still live on less than $1.90 a day.

Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
Children recovering from malnutrition play at the Children hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic. VOA

“On average, women are still having four to five children, and it’s the part of the world where poverty is coming down most slowly, partly because of slow growth but also because of very high levels of inequality,” Watkins said. “A child born into poverty faces greater risks of illiteracy; greater risks of mortality before the age of 5. They’re between two and three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday. They are far less likely to escape poverty themselves, which means that they will become the transmission mechanism for poverty to another generation.”

The report criticizes African governments for failing to develop coherent policies, and also warns that the IMF, the World Bank and other donors are failing in their response.

ALSO READ: World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

Watkins said dramatic changes in approach are urgently needed.

“Transferring more monetary resources to children who are living in poverty has to be part of the solution,” Watkins said. “But we also know that money is not enough. It’s critically important that these children get access to basic nutritional services, the basic health interventions, and the school systems that they need to escape poverty.”

The report warns that if poverty reduction targets are not met, the world will also fall short on other sustainable development goals in education, health and gender equality. (VOA)