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Goal 2
"End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture"

Currently, damage to soil, fresh water, sea, and forests have had created serious consequences on biodiversity. Climate change has a fatal impact on the resources we rely on and is increasing the risk of disasters such as drought and flooding. Many farmers can no longer make a living on their land and have to move to cities to find opportunities. Poor food security is severely malnourished, hindering the growth of millions of children and shortening their lifespan.

With 815 million people suffering from nutritional deficiencies worldwide and an additional 2 billion people expected to suffer from nutritional deficiencies by 2050, fundamental changes in the world's food and agricultural systems are needed to support them. Investment in agriculture is essential for the development of agricultural productivity, and a sustainable food production system is needed to reduce the risk of nutritional deficiency.

2.1 By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all 

2.2 By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons

2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

2.4 By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

2.5 By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed

2.a Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries

2.b Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round

2.c Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.

SDG 2 and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

      3rd UPR Cycle

Recommending State
Take measures to ensure international humanitarian aid reaches the most vulnerable and needy
Strengthen cooperation with international organizations, particularly in the areas of health, education and food
Continue with the cooperation programs, in line with the World Food Programme, with priority given to the most vulnerable groups, such as elderly persons, women and children, and ensure they are implemented transparently
Ensure the right to food and other economic, social and cultural rights, without any kind of discrimination
Ensure, protect and fulfil the right to an adequate standard of living, including the rights to adequate food on a non-discriminatory basis
Ensure the right to food for its entire population without any restriction
Take the necessary measures in order for all the population to have access to food
Fully prioritise fulfilling the right to food in its public spending, thus furthering recent improvements in the food situation
Take immediate steps to allocate proper budgetary resources to ensure protection of the rights to food, health, water and sanitation
Include more effective methods for the increase of food production, continue to make efforts for increased production of medical supplies and facilities
Increase budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector, so as to improve food security in its endeavours to further the protection and promotion of human rights of the Korean people
Increase access to food, healthcare, education, and adequate housing, throughout the country
Take further measures to improve access to basic health care, nutrition and education of children
Grant access to the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups
Grant immediate, free and unimpeded access to international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners
Secure unlimited humanitarian access to all provinces of the country
Continue to maintain cooperation with international organizations in the fields of health, education, nutrition and food security
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Maintain cooperation with international organizations working on health, education, nutrition and food security
Continue to maintain cooperation with the international organizations in the areas of health, education, nutrition and food security
Continue to maintain cooperation with international organizations in the fields of health, education, nutrition and food security
Redirect its public spending in order to fulfil the right of all people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, in line with Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 3
Maintain the design of action to guarantee the well-being of its population, in particular children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities, in its economic and social development plans
Take further steps to strengthen the anti-discrimination legal framework to ensure wider access to food, health, education and other fundamental rights
Increase people's access to food, health care, education and adequate housing throughout the country
Ensure the protection of the rights to food, health, water and sanitation, as previously recommended
Continue to guarantee access to education, food and health for its people, especially those most in need
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Intensify efforts in ensuring the rights to food and health for all people in the country, with priorities given to vulnerable or specific groups such as children, women, persons with disabilities and older persons
Continue the implementation of the food administration policy of the State
Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
Continue to strengthen measures that ensure access to food for the entire population
Take necessary measures to combat food insecurity and malnutrition, which affect millions of persons, including in particular children, women and older persons as well as other vulnerable groups
Further ensure that access to food in the country is free from discrimination and that public distribution of food covers marginalized and most vulnerable groups
Strengthen its positive actions to further reduce the infant mortality and malnutrition rates in the country
Adopt concrete measures to address the root causes of infant and child mortality, including social and economic deprivation and inequality, child malnutrition and child labour
Recommending State
Review its legal and administrative measures with a view to ensuring the dignity and better living conditions of the vulnerable groups, including women and children
Continue to increase and diversify agricultural production by resorting to agricultural strategies, which could be based on models of production that have proven to be worthwhile
Agree to the requests for visit by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food
Make every possible effort to ensure access to food for the entire population
Secure the right to food for all its citizens, especially so as to secure the right to health for children
Continue taking measures to ensure the right to food for its people and implement MDGs
Viet Nam
Take the necessary steps to ensure impartial access to adequate food, drinking water and other basic necessities for all people within its jurisdiction, including vulnerable groups
Address concerns of the international community, including shortage of food, medical and other humanitarian services
Allocate resources equitably and implement food security policies, including through sustainable agricultural practices and reduced State restrictions on the cultivation and trade of foodstuffs
New Zealand
Strengthen measures to facilitate access and effective distribution of international humanitarian aid to the people in need, with special attention to vulnerable groups
Give access to food and other essential products to those who need them, taking into account the particular needs of children and pregnant and nursing women, and cooperate constructively with humanitarian agencies and other humanitarian actors by ensuring them access to all the territory
Grant access to international humanitarian agencies such as WFP
Allow WFP to access those in need
Grant full access to WFP to ensure food reaches the most vulnerable, and adopt other measures to promote the right to food including economic reforms to incentivize those working in the agricultural sector to increase production
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Grant immediate access without obstacles to international humanitarian agencies, including WFP, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in order to allow the resumption of necessary operations for food supply and to ensure that aid is distributed on the basis of the genuine needs of the people
Allow humanitarian agencies to resume food assistance and grant WFP full, safe and unhindered access to the country in order to monitor aid distribution
Cooperate more intensively with United Nations human rights mechanisms, in particular by responding positively to the repeated requests for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights and the right to food
Allow urgently the development of international operations of food distribution in the whole country - put an end to discrimination in the governmental food distribution, prioritizing children, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and senior citizens
With regard to ensuring the right to food to the entire population, including in jails and labour camps, cooperate in a constructive manner with the competent United Nations institutions and facilitate the work of NGOs present in the country by guaranteeing their access to the entire population
Consider the request of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to visit the country
Ensure that government policy on access to food, healthcare and health services, including the Public Distribution System, is free of discrimination and political considerations
Ensure the right to adequate food, including access to food, in a non-discriminatory manner, paying special attention to marginalized groups in its public distribution, in accordance with its international human rights obligations
Take immediate measures to end the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations described in the report of the COI – including violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion; multiple forms of discrimination; violations of the freedom of movement and residence; violations of the right to food; arbitrary detention, torture and executions; and abductions and enforced disappearances from other countries
Provide international humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors with immediate access to the prison camps and their surviving victims
Guarantee the right to food for its citizens on an equal basis and put an end to discriminatory food rationing as a tool to control and exert pressure on its people
Stop violating the right to food and using starvation, hunger and malnutrition as a means to ensure its control over the population
Allow humanitarian assistance providers operating in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea unrestricted and independent movement throughout the country, as well as direct and unimpeded access to all populations in need
United States of America
Prioritize the human rights of its population over military expenditure, including by dedicating resources to ensure freedom from hunger
Effectively address chronic food insecurity, in particular early childhood malnutrition, and ensure that government policy on access to food is free of discrimination and political considerations
Ensure that the Government's policies on access to food and distribution are free from discrimination and political considerations
Stop using food as a way to control its population and ensure the free distribution of food

SDG 2 and the North Korean Government


Achieving food and nutrition security was the first strategic priority set in the Strategic Framework for Cooperation Between the United Nations and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2017-2021 (hereinafter the UN Strategic Framework), and also appeared in the 2021 VNR report as the highest priority. Additionally, North Korea has supported a number of relevant recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review related to food security and access to food.

In North Korea’s National Report submitted ahead of its second Universal Periodic Review in 2014, the government stated that it made nationwide efforts on farming and improved methods of agricultural management. It appears this is through the “paddy unit responsibility” system which was introduced in 2013 based on the dynamics of the interest of farm workers. As a result, the DPRK’s state-media reported that North Korea has been actively promoting increased food production through its state-controlled channels. Since then the DPRK has reportedly continued to make efforts to improve food security by directing farming “on a scientific and technological basis, introducing advanced farming methods, breeding high-yielding strains that are suitable to the climatic and soil conditions of the country and increasing the proportion of farm work done by machines. As a result, cereals production steadily increased year by year, making big strides in solving food problem.” Under the guidance of the Provincial Party Committee, organizational projects have been implemented in cooperative farms to increase agricultural productivity. Additionally, according to its 2021 VNR report, the DPRK government waged an intensive drive for scientific farming and high yield and thus produced 6.65 million tons, the highest yield during the last 10 years. In the report, it further stated that “the efforts are focused on breeding of superior strains in larger numbers, increasing fertility of soil to ensure the sustainable food production system” and “the national effort is paid to implementation of the tideland reclamation for agricultural development and improvement of the people’s livelihood.”

North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, has frequently released articles about its agricultural productivity with reports of 45 tons of crops being harvested and potato production exceeding annual plans after the visit of the Supreme Leader and the maintenance of farmed and domesticated animals including grass-fed animals and baby rabbits.

The DPRK government has also reported on the measures it has put in place to help maintain ecosystems that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather and flooding, such as field excursions by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences where scientists visited affected flooding sites to enhance the nutrition of crop organs that were destroyed in typhoons and gave guidance on fertilizers and treatment methods.

SDG 2 and North Korean Escapees

“The reason that they don’t give [food rations] is because we farmed in the mountain. They consider the [farmed goods] to be rations. But actually these days they don’t even allow us to farm. They don’t give us food rations and they don’t let us farm. That’s basically like telling us to die. Last year (2017) they wouldn’t let us sow any crops, so my father-in-law said ‘You don’t give us food rations. I understand that the state is going through difficulties, but what do you expect us citizens to eat? You might as well just kill us and sow our [bodies]. We didn’t have a cow so my husband pulled from the front as I carried things on my back. Then the forest rangers came and told us to stop. They took all that land and gave it to the State Department enterprises to sow tree saplings. But the time to plant saplings had already passed. You have to plant saplings in the spring, if you plant them in the summer they’ll die [...] My father-in-law was a member of the party and so was I. He would argue with them saying ‘Hey, I’m a Party Member as well, shouldn’t I be getting food and living my life as well? I’m old now, I don’t care. Take me away for a political crime for all you like. I’m just looking out for my children, that’s all.’ My father-in-law had a really difficult life, he lost his parents when he was five during the war and grew up as an orphan. But he says life is more difficult now than it was back then. He always says, ‘North Korea is probably going to collapse.’ He grew up walking around barefoot looking for his parents during the war and he says it’s more difficult now.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2018 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“Fertilizers are given to cooperative farms. These days there are more cooperative farms than private ones. Cooperative farms have better land. The land next to the road belongs to the state, and only the land on the mountains are private farms”  

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“There aren’t any food rations so everybody goes to the market. It’s illegal to sell things on the market but if you don’t you would starve to death. The only people who don’t go to the market are cadres or people who receive [food] from the state.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“Farmers would have to farm for a year and present the crops. After the crops are submitted then there is really nothing to eat when spring comes. You would have to cook some corn mixed with something. There always isn’t enough to eat.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“The food we get from the State isn’t enough. We get about 30 percent and the rest, 70 percent, we get from the market. I was able to buy food for myself. Other families though? They had to sell their homes because they were starving. The woman who lived above me, she had three children, all at the age where they needed a lot to eat, but they didn’t have enough food so she got her blood taken out [and sold it]. So when she had to go out and participate in events, she would collapse and have to be carried home.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)] 

SDG 2 and the International Community

The DPRK has had a difficult history with providing sufficient food for its citizens, which was the primary reason that led to the first wave of defections during the great famine of the late 1990s. North Korea’s high rates of undernutrition can be traced back to the mountainous terrain, traditional farming methods, lack of agricultural inputs and changing weather patterns. In spite of these obstacles, Kim Jong Un has been pursuing reform since his rise to power. As such, the food situation is significantly more secure than it was in the 2000s.

The DPRK government has claimed that it ensures the right to food without any discrimination through its Public Distribution System. Yet, NKDB’s research has found that a significant amount of its interviewees have not received food rations during their time in North Korea. An analysis of those who did receive food rations showed that these were people who were affiliated with the military and/or were state officials or had received a few kilograms of corn during national holidays such as Kim Il Sung’s birthday. The stagnant ration system that remains in place today deepens the divide between those who are considered to be ‘loyal’ to the Regime and others; a direct violation of North Korea’s pledge to make efforts to provide adequate food on a “nondiscriminatory basis.”

While the DPRK government does not release information on the state of hunger and food security in the country, both human rights and humanitarian organizations have shown that undernourishment is still prevalent. The UN Humanitarian Country Team reported that around 10.1 million (39.6%) of the country’s population are food insecure, which particularly impacts children, women of reproductive age, and the elderly. In regards to the pledge to end malnutrition for all, it appears that young children and pregnant and lactating women particularly suffer from chronic malnutrition as the diet in North Korea lack essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats.

 In regards to agricultural productivity, reports from the FAO and WFP have shown that there were lower yields in the 2018/2019 cropping season due to the combination of dry weather conditions and reduced irrigation water supplies caused by shortages of electricity and fuel.

Furthermore, the DPRK immediately closed its border, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. It cut off any physical crossing of the border into the country, including the inflow of humanitarian aid from the international community. All international aid workers and organisations, including those from the UN, had exited the country, leaving a vacuum for a variety of aid areas that the country desperately needs. According to the NKDB’s report, the extreme measures taken to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 within the country, adding to the severe flooding from June to September 2020 further exacerbating an already deteriorating situation for food production. The international community has rallied to provide humanitarian aid to the disaster struck the North, however, the aid has not been allowed to enter the country due to fears that COVID-10 will breach the sealed borders through the humanitarian aid.

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