[PRESS][NK News] DPRK says it’s pursuing sustainable development, but experts remain skeptical (14 JUL 2021)

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[NK News / 14 July 2021]

North Korea says it is making progress toward sustainable development goals (SDGs) that improve the well-being of its people, according to a report it submitted to the United Nations on Tuesday.

Adopted by all member states in 2015, the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 sustainable development goals that encompass broad areas like improving food security, gender equality, climate change and more.

In its first-ever progress report submitted to the U.N.’s High-Level Political Forum, North Korea claimed that its construction of housing as well as its health care system and environmental laws — among many other institutions and legislation — address the goals laid out by the U.N.

North Korea’s U.N. representative Kim Song argued, however, that external factors have impeded the country’s progress toward meeting its SDGs.

“Continued sanctions and blockade against my country, recurrent natural disaster and a world health crisis are main obstacles [to] the DPRK,” Kim said at the session on Tuesday.

Kim refused to answer some critical questions raised by a civil organization on the country’s plan to address the ongoing border closure’s impact on its people and child labor exploitation in the country, among many other issues.

“It’s that never-ending debate of: Why are there sanctions in the first place?” said Hanna Song, a researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and who participated in the Q&A session representing multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). 

“Sanctions, of course, do have an effect … [but] there are so many other aspects that the North Korean government themselves could be working toward, regardless of sanctions.”

Such areas include promoting a transparent justice system, reducing corruption or ending the exploitation of child labor, Song said.

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