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Goal 7
"Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all"

Energy is the core of the major challenges and opportunities facing the world today. Energy usage is inevitable for jobs, security, climate change, food production, or income growth. It is particularly important to strive for this goal, as it is linked to other SDGs. The key is to focus on universalizing energy, increasing efficiency, and increasing use of renewable energy through new economies and job creation, thereby creating sustainable and inclusive communities and responding to environmental problems such as climate change.

Currently, 3 billion people are at risk of air pollution because they cannot use clean cooking utensils. Also, less than 1 billion people live without electricity, and 50% of them are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Fortunately, over the past decade, there has been great progress in the use of hydroelectric, solar, and wind power generation, and the energy use rate per GDP unit has also decreased.

7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services

7.2 By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

7.3 By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

7.a By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology

7.b By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support

SDG 7 and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

수용 - Supported
Recommending State
Take measures to ensure international humanitarian aid reaches the most vulnerable and needy
Continue to promote economic, social and culture development to provide better conditions for the enjoyment of all rights by its people
Intensify its efforts to promote economic development
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
주목 - Noted
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
Enhance protection of rights of women and children, in particular those in the most vulnerable situations

SDG 7 and the North Korean Government

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The North Korean government has invested in the utilisation of its natural resources for the production of electricity. One such example is the construction and maintenance of hydroelectric power plants. One such example is the hydropower plant built in Geumya County, South Hamgyong Province. Geumyagang Power Plant No. 2 was constructed to take advantage of the rich water resources in the region, provide power for manufacturing plants, and improve the well-being of North Korean citizens there. Additionally the electricity of the plant helps the supply of power for irrigation of the farm fields and boosts agricultural production in the county. The North Korean authorities have also reported the installation of solar panels and hundreds of wind turbines aimed at providing enough electricity to independently supply production, scientific, and education efforts, as well as power factories and private homes. In relation to the use of renewable energy sources, Kim Jong Un directly addressed the topic by making a statement at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea urging for the active use of natural energy sources. In the 5-year economic development plan announced in 2016, Kim Jong Un stressed the importance of renewable energy sources and the expansion of the construction of big hydro- and thermoelectric power plants in order to meet the electricity needs of the population. The state also reported an increase in the development and use of solar, wind, and bio energy. 

According to North Korea’s 2021 VNR report, the proportion of population accessed to the national power grid was 99.7% in 2017 and yet, the increasing electricity demand has not been fully met. Regarding the results of survey on energy demand and resource assessment in 15 communities of 6 counties in 2016 conducted under the UNDP SES16 project, the index of access to electricity supply in the households is 2.24 and the proportion of population using electricity is 97.6% on average, and the index of access to electricity in the rural areas are low. As a result, the DPRK government gives top priority to solving energy issue in order to increase the access to electricity supply.

The North Korean government has indicated the introduction in the past 3 years of carbon monoxide power generators able to produce about 5,500 kW of energy as a self-sustainable way to supply power to households that don’t have access to electricity. However this claim largely ignores safety concerns about the use of these dangerous generators. 

The North Korean state has announced its plans for technical innovation aimed at much more efficient generation of electricity. Additionally, the North Korean government has been aware of the vulnerability of its predominant use of natural resources for the production of electricity and has made some efforts to apply technological development for the optimization of its electricity production and use. North Korea’s fourth “5-year state plan for scientific and technological development” covering the period 2013-2017 focused on saving electricity and tackling the energy deficit of the country through technological development and new sources of energy.

SDG 7 and North Korean Escapees

“From 2012 there were more computers. From the third year onward, there are computer classes. As there is no electricity, the children cannot practice. Before that there were no computers. The problem is that there is no electricity.” 

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

“Let’s say I want to have an X-ray taken, so I go to a hospital. There is no order; the person who brings money is the first one to have their X-ray taken. Because of the poor electricity supply in North Korea, X-ray or ultrasound scans are only carried out when there is electricity. When the electricity is cut off, people can’t get an X-ray. If the person who pays gets it first, the other person who came first has to go home.”

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

“On March 20, 2019 my daughter died as a result of briquette gas (or carbon monoxide) poisoning. [...] My cousin’s child and my daughter died together then as well [...] To be honest, there is not a lot of electricity even in Pyongyang. There is electricity usually between 7 and 11 pm. They were saying that we would be supplied with electricity in the mornings too, from 5 to 7 am but there were days in which this was true, and others when there was no electricity at all. [...] That is why people use coal briquettes. From November to March every year there are briquette gas safety guards, whose role is to prevent the occurrence of accidents caused by carbon monoxide. [...] There are these safety guards and also Ministry of People’s Security officers in charge from the protection department. They perform inspections around each check post following orders from Kim Jong Un saying that this was a provision of our so called rights. [...] However such things have no result.” 

[Interview by NKDB in 2019 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“I lived in Pyongyang for a long time and something that made me so mad was that even though there were so many people living there, the number of people living there is almost the same as the number of people living in Yanggang Province. It is a residential area. There were constant power outages. I lived on the 24th floor and because there was no electricity I could not use the elevator and had to always go up and down the stairs.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2019 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

SDG 7 and the International Community

Due to the chronic lack of electricity in the country, North Korean people constantly experience power outages, which are constant in the provincial areas but also quite regular even in Pyongyang. The unreliable supply of electricity is affecting all areas of life in the country. It affects the ability to maintain personal and public hygiene, the proper operation of essential facilities such as hospitals and schools, as well as production in factories, which hampers the attempts for North Korea to meet the stated goals.

As a result of the policy of the North Korean government for expansion of the use of renewable energy sources, many North Koreans have turned to such power sources with people who have enough money buying solar panels imported from China. According to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics, Geothermal and solar energy is used not only in private households and public institutions but also in fisheries and greenhouses.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2018, only 12.3% of the North Korean population had primary access to clean cooking facilities. The share of modern renewable energy of total energy consumption comes up at 25.4% in 2017. This is mainly due to the extensive use of hydropower in the DPRK. However, given the fact that North Korea does not have huge water resources comparable to the ones in Brazil and Columbia, in the long term they may suffer from the effects of climate change.

The introduction of energy-efficient models to buildings and public facilities in the country is almost non-existent. Reports provided by UNICEF indicate that a solar-powered system, sound sensors attached to lighting and other energy-efficient modifications were made to its office in the country in 2017 in order to achieve reduction in its energy footprint. This has been used as an example to the North Korean authorities as a way to achieve better energy efficiency but there is little evidence that such technology and adjustments were made in other buildings in Pyongyang or elsewhere in the country.

North Korea’s ambitions of nuclear weapons also put the domestic energy supply into hardships. The international community brought plans of nuclear power plant  and light-water reactors to the table with conditions that North Korea should cease the development of its nuclear weapons programs. However, the offers fell short of expectation, as the regime did not abandon its nuclear development. Even worse, UN sanctions that were levied on North Korea as a result of its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons have blocked most forms of energy import, in addition to restricting provision of development aid for North Korea to overcome their energy shortage through improved infrastructure. 

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