The Elders say that their visit to Beijing, Pyongyang and Seoul to discuss security, nuclear and humanitarian issues shows that all parties need to resume dialogue, but there is no sign of an imminent breakthrough, especially on inter-Korean relations.
"We came to the region to listen, learn and to encourage a more positive approach to dialogue," said delegation leader, former US President Jimmy Carter. "I believe that our visit has contributed to greater understanding, but it will be up to those directly involved to make real progress."
During a 48-hour visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the four-member Elders' delegation met senior political and military officials, UN representatives and diplomats. They also visited sites outside Pyongyang to better understand food, education and health issues.
In Seoul they have met with senior officials. The Elders now plan to brief US and European governments on their findings.
President Carter said:
“We will urge the international community to be generous in sending food aid to the DPRK as a matter of urgency.
“On relations between North and South Korea, there are no quick fixes to security and nuclear issues, and progress will require greater flexibility, sincerity and commitment from all parties.”
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, emphasised that “food is a basic human right, but because of serious weather problems and donor cutbacks, the amount of food being distributed to families is well below what is needed, leading to a hidden crisis.
“Food aid levels must be raised significantly and urgently. Donors should be reassured by the DPRK's recent agreement with the World Food Program to improve transparency and monitoring of food distribution.”
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, who was also Director-General of the World Health Organisation, said:
“Food security is one of a number of health issues that need to be addressed. One third of North Korean children's growth is stunted due to a poor diet and one in five children is underweight. Stunting affects brain development, posing serious risks to future generations. There is also chronic diarrhoea and respiratory disease, especially among children.
“The DPRK needs to invest in water and sanitation systems, medical services and the provision of basic medicines to deal with these health problems.”
Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari said:
“After my first visit to the DPRK, I believe that peace is possible, but the parties are unlikely to make much progress by demanding unilateral action of each other.
“Having witnessed many conflicts, a solution can only be found through an early resumption of dialogue on all outstanding issues.”
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