Mob Boss on the Police Force: The D.P.R.K and the UN Conference on Disarmament

To the Member States of the United Nations and the Human Rights Community:

Permitting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) to chair the United Nations Conference on Disarmament makes a mockery of this once noble institution. The Conference on Disarmament was established in 1978 to create a single negotiating forum for the purpose of international disarmament. It allows the nations of the world to have one place where they can discuss policies and hash out deals relating to disarmament. Attempting disarmament negotiations with the D.P.R.K. leading the Conference is similar to attempting to stamp out gang violence with a local mob boss leading the task force on organized crime. Besides its infamous reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators, the D.P.R.K. has twice tested nuclear weapons in violation of international bans and the United Nation’s own Security Council Resolutions. It is a leading proliferator of nuclear technology to Iran and Syria and was forced to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after it became obvious that they were in violation of its terms. Since then North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program, including alternative bombs based on highly enriched uranium.

Even now, the D.P.R.K. threatens to put South Korea in a “sea of fire” and in the first half of 2011 it carried out multiple, unprovoked attacks on South Korea. The D.P.R.K.’s communist regime is so obsessed with its nuclear program that it has diverted essential resources toward missiles and bombs, while millions of its own people starve. This is just the tip of the massive iceberg of human rights violations that the D.P.R.K. commits every day. Any position which gives prestige to a government guilty of such egregious human rights violations should draw the ire of the international community. When the criminal nation in question is especially guilty of arms proliferation allowing them to chair a disarmament body is both sad and absurd.

This comes at a time when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called upon the Conference to pay special attention to its core responsibilities. In a speech before the Conference on January 26, 2011 the Secretary-General recognized that “the Conference’s record of achievement has been overshadowed by inertia that has now lasted for more than a decade. The very credibility of this body is at risk. Continued inaction will only endanger its future as a multilateral negotiating forum.” He then called upon the Conference to “start substantive work” and warned them that “It is for you, the members, to decide whether it will live up to the expectations of the international community or face the consequences.”

If the member states of the Conference believe that substantive work is possible with an infamous arms proliferator at the helm then it is no wonder that they have failed to accomplish anything for over a decade. To add insult to injurr over this decade the biannual funding of the Conference has increased from $3.3 million to $4.6 million. At a time when pundits are talking about the UN budget crisis, over $24 million has been spent on this Conference and its attendent bureacratic support, without any results whatsoever. There are those who say that we are making much out of little. They say that the presidency of the Conference is on a permanent rotation, and it will not change anything. Such a statement only proves that the Conference on Disarmament has become a meaningless excuse to spend millions of dollars a year. This goes beyond mere inaction and now, as the Secretary-General said, they must “face the consequences.”

Based on its total disregard for its responsibilities we conclude that the Conference on Disarmament is defunct. The nation of Canada has already withdrawn from the Conference, at least for the period during which the Democratic People’s Republic of China will be presiding. We ask all those NGO’s who are dedicated to human rights to call their governments to follow Canada’s example in withdraw in protest. A forum which does not give prestige and the appearance of legitimacy to nations guilty of such heinous crimes. We, ourselves, call upon all member states who are concerned about arms proliferation, dedicated to disarmament, and committed to human rights to withdraw from the Conference and call for either a serious restructuring or the creation of a new body which can actually pursue the goal of disarmament.

We are writing as a member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition to express our grave concern over the North Korea’s appointment to chair the U.N. Conference on disarmament, and to call all concerned Member States as well as the human rights community to action. The North Korea Freedom Coalition is a nonpartisan coalition founded in June, 2003 to work for the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North Korea people. We believe that promoting human rights for North Korea must be the central focus of any and all policy towards North Korea.

Jubilee Campaign promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities; advocates the release of prisoners of conscience imprisoned on account of their faith; advocates for and assists refugees fleeing religious based persecution; and protects and promotes the dignity and safety of children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation. Jubilee Campaign holds special consultative status with ECOSOC at the United Nations.