COPCAT Shorts – UN Treaty Bodies Under Budgetary Cosh

“It is with a sense of urgency that we convey our deep concern regarding the critical funding situation affecting the UN’s human rights mechanisms and OHCHR…”

So opens an Open NGO letter regarding the critical funding gap affecting UN human rights mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was sent earlier this week to all UN Member States’ Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and New York.

The letter, which was signed by the Canada OPCAT Project among several hundred other civil society actors, expressed dismay about the potentially harmful impact on the functioning of the UN treaty bodies and special procedures caused by delays in payments by UN Member States’ assessed contributions to the regular UN budget as well as other budget cuts.

UNCAT 65th session Canada Probed
Palais Wilson – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

In an OHCHR written statement issued on 17 May the Chairpersons of the 10 UN treaty bodies also expressed concern about this unprecedented situation, stating:

“In April this year, the Chairpersons of all 10 treaty bodies were informed that six of them are very likely to have sessions in 2019 cancelled for financial reasons – an unprecedented consequence of some UN member States delaying payments due to the organisation.

This means that reviews already scheduled with States, as well as consideration of complaints by individual victims of serious human rights violations – including torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances – will not take place as scheduled. The cancellation of sessions will also have numerous other negative consequences, and will seriously undermine the system of protections which States themselves have put in place over decades.”

Canada would be directly impacted by these potential cancellations as, during the autumn period, it is scheduled to be reviewed by three treaty bodies. These include the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (through the List of Issues Prior to Reporting procedure) and the UN Committee against Torture (through the one-year follow-up procedure).

The Open NGO letter calls on UN Member States to pay their assessed contributions without further delay, prioritize securing adequate funding for the UN human rights pillar and initiate discussions on how to reverse the trend of reduced regular budget for OHCHR.


Read the full Open NGO letter here.

Read OHCHR’s statement ‘UN budget shortfalls seriously undermine the work of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies’.