Former UN humanitarian coordinator speaking on North Korean hunger and politics April 6 at Auburn University

Published: April 03, 2017
Updated: June 21, 2017
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The Auburn University Office of International Programs and the Auburn-Keimyung Korea Center will present a lecture, "Hunger and Politics in North Korea: A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma," April 6 at 6 p.m. in 144 Spidle Hall on the Auburn campus. Doug Coutts, former United Nations humanitarian coordinator and World Food Programme representative, will share his first-hand experiences living and working in Pyongyang.

After severe flooding in the mid-1990s, North Korea appealed for assistance to the international community. In response to that appeal and as a precondition for assistance from outside, North Korea allowed the UN World Food Programme to assign international staff to be resident in-country for the first time. Today there are a small number of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations that continue to work in difficult conditions in North Korea assisting with humanitarian relief operations.

Coutts will discuss the situation in North Korea drawing on his extensive travel throughout the country while he was resident there during the height of the severe food shortages. While head of the UN World Food Programme in North Korea, he was appointed by the secretary general as the first UN humanitarian coordinator to North Korea. He will address the important role of the Public Distribution System in providing for the needs of all Koreans, the ultimate failure of the country’s food and agriculture economy and the subsequent consequences on the society and the country overall.

Coutts has more than 35 years of experience working in international development programs and humanitarian relief operations around the world including stints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Select Committee on Hunger in the U.S. House of Representatives and the UN World Food Programme. His last posting for the past three years was in Africa as UN resident coordinator in the Comoros Islands.

Coutts served as World Food Programme senior advisor at Auburn for four years and helped establish the Hunger Solutions Institute, where he now serves as a senior advisor and occasionally as a guest lecturer and speaker.

The event is free and open to the public. A small reception will follow the lecture.

For more information, visit the Office of International Programs website.