Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance
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The Republic of Korea upholds human rights as one of its core foreign policy principles and has actively participated in the international community’s efforts to promote and protect human rights around the world. As a country that has achieved economic development, democratization, and improvement in human rights within a span of one generation, the Republic of Korea aims to contribute to the international human rights agenda based on its national development experience.
Currently, Korea is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as being a State Party to seven core international human rights treaties,* actively participating in and contributing to human rights discussions and activities in the UN.
*International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In its UN human rights activities, the Republic of Korea attaches special importance in promoting and protecting human rights of vulnerable groups who could potentially be left behind in the national development process, such as persons with disabilities and women and girls. Accordingly, the Republic of Korea has co-sponsored and taken part in the drafting of human rights resolutions focused on those vulnerable groups. The Republic of Korea has also contributed to mainstreaming human rights in the UN system, including supporting the “Human Rights Up Front Initiative” and establishing the Accessibility Centres at UN offices in New York and Bangkok for persons with disabilities.
Additionally, the Republic of Korea approaches country-specific human rights initiatives in the UN from the standpoint of universal protection and promotion of human rights, and actively participates in related discussions and the Universal Periodic Review process at the Human Rights Council. Meanwhile, the Korean Government has been engaged in the international cooperation for the improvement of human rights in North Korea. Based upon its basic position that the issue of human rights should be dealt with as a universal value, the Korean Government takes note with appreciation of the recent progress toward a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through the inter-Korean and US-DPRK Summits. The Korean Government hopes that scaling-up of exchanges and cooperation with the DPRK based on such progress would lead to positive effects on substantial improvement of human rights of the North Korean people.
The Republic of Korea’s humanitarian assistance has aimed at saving lives and protecting the basic dignity and human rights of those affected by poverty, disease, natural and man-made disasters, and armed conflict, as a responsible member of the international community. The Korean Government has been providing humanitarian assistance in compliance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, which were approved by UN resolutions. Although the Republic of Korea’s humanitarian assistance was focused on emergency relief in the past, the Korean government is now expanding its contribution to protracted and forgotten crises. To that end, the Republic of Korea has been actively engaging with the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), which is the strategic planning and resource mobilization mechanism jointly prepared by the UN humanitarian agencies.
The Republic of Korea has been making great efforts to provide timely and effective emergency relief for the affected country by establishing the Policy Framework on Overseas Emergency Relief based on the Overseas Emergency Relief Act in cases of large-scale disasters. In an effort to join the fight against the Ebola outbreak, the Korean government dispatched the Korea Disaster Relief Team (KDRT) to Sierra Leone in 2014 to treat Ebola patients, which is considered as a new form of health diplomacy. In additon, the KDRT responded to the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal in 2015 by carrying out search and rescue operations as well as medical activities. In particular, Korea whowed its emergency relief capabilities to the international community when, in 2016, in the accreditation administered by the INSARAG (International Search and Rescue Advisor Group), the KDRT was classified in the highest attainable grade as a "Heavy Team".
The government of the Repubic of Korea provides humanitarian assistance to around 40 overseas disasters every year. In 2017, Korea provided 88 million USD worth of humanitarian assistance to many humanitarian crises, including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, which are classified as the most severe and large-scale crises by the United Nations. In addition, the Republic of Korea made an annual contribution of 5 million USD in 2019 to the Central Emergency Response Fund managed by OCHA in order to help with rapid emergency relief operations and humanitarian response to underfunded emergencies and other forgotten crises.