Foreign Assistance:

U.S. Bilateral Food Assistance to North Korea Had Mixed Results

NSIAD-00-175: Published: Jun 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. bilateral food assistance project in North Korea, focusing on the: (1) objectives, accomplishments, key factors affecting performance, and monitoring effectiveness of the potato component of the bilateral aid project; (2) objectives, accomplishments, key factors affecting performance, and monitoring effectiveness of the food-for-work component; and (3) administration's views on the project and plans for additional bilateral assistance to North Korea. The United States, North Korea, and a consortium of U.S. private voluntary organizations (known as the Consortium) signed an agreement for the project in April 1999.

GAO noted that: (1) the potato component of the bilateral aid project sought to increase North Korean potato production by using 1,000 metric tons of imported Chinese and American seed potatoes to generate as much as several hundred thousand tons of potatoes over two growing seasons (1999 and 2000); (2) the Consortium estimates that only 3,000 metric tons of potatoes were produced during the first harvest and that most of these were in poor condition; (3) the project produced substantially fewer potatoes than expected primarily because the seed potatoes were planted late in the first growing season, unusually bad weather struck close to the harvest time, and the North Korean government directed that the potatoes be planted in areas that were less than ideal; (4) in addition, the Consortium and the Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee did not collaborate on a second planting because the North Korean government no longer wanted assistance in the form of seed potatoes, but instead sought commercial potato propagation technology from the Consortium; (5) the food-for-work program sought to provide 100,000 metric tons of U.S. government-donated food to North Koreans in return for their work on agricultural and other infrastructure projects to benefit their communities, including the seed potato assistance project; (6) the Consortium estimates that the food was distributed to nearly 2.7 million persons in 107 of 211 North Korean counties and met a goal of providing at least 50 percent of the food to northeast provinces, which were considered the most in need of food; (7) key problems that negatively affected the distribution of the food aid were shipping and visa delays and disagreement between the Consortium and the Food Damage Rehabilitation Committee over how the food should be used; (8) as a result of these problems, and in an effort to ensure accountability, the Consortium found it necessary to redirect shipments of commodities to the United Nations World Food Program in North Korea; (9) the Agency for International Development (AID) later arranged to temporarily store subsequent commodities in South Korea, where they were stored until the Consortium and Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee agreed on food distribution plans; (10) U.S. officials said they have no plans for providing additional bilateral emergency assistance to North Korea; and (11) according to Department of State officials, if North Korea were to take actions that resulted in its being removed from its terrorist list, the provision of bilateral development assistance would nevertheless remain certain.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: State told GAO that no plans are being made for bilateral development assistance for the coming year. However, if State, AID, and the Department of Agriculture decide to support another bilateral aid project designed to provide seed potatoes to North Korea, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Secretary of Agriculture should take steps to ensure that the project is started in a timely manner, the potatoes are planted in suitable locations, and that a potato specialist is available throughout the duration of the project to ensure effective monitoring and interaction with North Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and commit to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, if State, AID, and the Department of Agriculture decide to support another bilateral aid project designed to provide seed potatoes to North Korea, they should take steps to ensure that the project is started in a timely manner, the potatoes are planted in suitable locations, and that a potato specialist is available throughout the duration of the project to ensure effective monitoring and interaction with North Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

    Recommendation: State told GAO that no plans are being made for bilateral development assistance for the coming year. However, if State, AID, and the Department of Agriculture decide to support another bilateral aid project designed to provide seed potatoes to North Korea, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Secretary of Agriculture should take steps to ensure that the project is started in a timely manner, the potatoes are planted in suitable locations, and that a potato specialist is available throughout the duration of the project to ensure effective monitoring and interaction with North Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and commit to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, if State, AID, and the Department of Agriculture decide to support another bilateral aid project designed to provide seed potatoes to North Korea, they should take steps to ensure that the project is started in a timely manner, the potatoes are planted in suitable locations, and that a potato specialist is available throughout the duration of the project to ensure effective monitoring and interaction with North Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

    Recommendation: If State and AID decide to approve another bilateral food-for-work program where the Consortium is responsible for implementing the program, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should undertake efforts to secure improved cooperation from the North Korean government.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Departments and State and Agriculture, and the Agency for International Development all agreed to implement the recommendation to undertake efforts to secure improved cooperation from the government of North Korea, if another bilateral food-for-work program is approved where the Consortium is responsible for implementing the program.

    Recommendation: If State and AID decide to approve another bilateral food-for-work program where the Consortium is responsible for implementing the program, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should undertake efforts to secure improved cooperation from the North Korean government.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Departments and State and Agriculture, and the Agency for International Development all agreed to implement the recommendation to undertake efforts to secure improved cooperation from the government of North Korea, if another bilateral food-for-work program is approved where the Consortium is responsible for implementing the program.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the Consortium's field manager and monitors will be provided visas for the duration of the program.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, State Department, and Department of Agriculture in their statements of action dated September 6, 2000, accepted all of the recommendations, find them to be constructive, and commit to implementing them in the event their is another bilateral program with North Korea.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the Consortium's field manager and monitors will be provided visas for the duration of the program.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, State Department, and Department of Agriculture in their statements of action dated September 6, 2000, accepted all of the recommendations, find them to be constructive, and commit to implementing them in the event their is another bilateral program with North Korea.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the food aid shipments will not be landed in North Korea until the Consortium food aid monitors have arrived in-country and had time to conduct assessments and approve projects that will receive the food aid.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and commit to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator of AID should seek agreement that the food aid shipments will not be landed in North Korea until the Consortium food aid monitors have arrived in-country and had time to conduct assessments and approve projects that will receive the food aid.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the food aid shipments will not be landed in North Korea until the Consortium food aid monitors have arrived in-country and had time to conduct assessments and approve projects that will receive the food aid.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and commit to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator of AID should seek agreement that the food aid shipments will not be landed in North Korea until the Consortium food aid monitors have arrived in-country and had time to conduct assessments and approve projects that will receive the food aid.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the Consortium personnel have greater access to local government officials for the purpose of cooperatively identifying and developing project proposals based on local needs and conditions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and are committed to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID should seek agreement that the Consortium personnel have greater access to local government officials for the purpose of cooperatively identifying and developing project proposals based on local needs and conditions.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the Consortium personnel have greater access to local government officials for the purpose of cooperatively identifying and developing project proposals based on local needs and conditions.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and are committed to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID should seek agreement that the Consortium personnel have greater access to local government officials for the purpose of cooperatively identifying and developing project proposals based on local needs and conditions.

    Recommendation: In negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the team is guaranteed access to project sites and associated food distribution centers on short-notice and provided schedules for distributing the food-for-work food aid.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and are committed to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral agreement with North Korea. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator, AID, should seek agreement that the team is guaranteed access to project cites associated with food distribution centers on short-notice and provided schedules for distributing the food-for-work food aid.

    Recommendation: In addition, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Secretary of Agriculture should assess the Consortium proposed management to determine whether it is adequate to the demands of implementing projects in North Korea. For example, a clear line of authority should be established between the project management in the United States and the team in the field and clear guidance provided to monitors on how to perform their role.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and are committed to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of AID should seek agreement that the team is guaranteed access to project sites associated with food distribution centers on short-notice and provided schedules for distributing the food-for-work food aid.

    Recommendation: In addition, the Secretary of State, the Administrator, AID, and the Secretary of Agriculture should assess the Consortium proposed management to determine whether it is adequate to the demands of implementing projects in North Korea. For example, a clear line of authority should be established between the project management in the United States and the team in the field and clear guidance provided to monitors on how to perform their role.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Agency for International Development, and the Departments of State and Agriculture agree with the recommendation, and are committed to implementing it in the event of a new bilateral program with North Korea. Therefore, in negotiating future agreements with North Korea, the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of AID should seek agreement that the team is guaranteed access to project sites associated with food distribution centers on short-notice and provided schedules for distributing the food-for-work food.

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