Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Update on the impact of US cuts to the UN budget

February 21, 2019

Here is what you need to know about how the budget deal between President Trump and Congress will impact the United Nations.

UN Peacekeeping is underfunded.

The budget deal includes$1.551 billion for the “Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities” account. This is the budget line that funds most of America’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations, including key missions in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon and more.  The $1.551 billion appropriated by Congress falls short of this rate by nearly 3%. At issue is an arbitrary “cap” of 25% that Congress imposes on US dues to UN peacekeeping, despite the fact that at the UN, the US had agreed to pay 27.9%. The gap between what is assessed and what is paid by the United States results in an underfunding of UN peacekeeping operations and the accumulation of arrears by the United States, now to the tune of $750 million.

This underfunding of UN peacekeeping is contributing to a major cash crisis for UN Peacekeeping operations. Last month, the UN Secretary General sent a letter to every UN ambassador, warning them that a $2 billion shortfall means the UN only has a few months of cash on hand to sustain its peacekeeping operations.  This budget passed by congress only adds to the these uncertainties facing UN Peacekeeping.

The UN regular budget is properly funded

The “Contributions to International Organizations” account funds the regular budget of the United Nations and also the core budgets of some UN agencies, like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization. The Congressional deal includes over $1.3 billion for this account, which represents a funding level commensurate with the rates the United States is assessed as a dues paying member of the UN. In other words, it is the proper funding level.

The caveat here is that the Trump administration may still try to withhold, or slow walk, the disbursement of these funds in an attempt to punish the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Last year, the White House sought to withhold $27 million in payments to the UN, which it calculated was roughly the amount that the UN would spend to fund the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and also the UN Human Rights Council. ..

The Budget Deal Thwarts the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Kill UNICEF

In its budget request last year, the White House sought to completely eliminate an account known as “International Organizations and Programs.”  (UNICEF is also funded through this account)…

Congress did not agree to these gratuitous cuts, and maintained a funding level for this account consistent with previous budgets, to the tune of $340 million. The budget also includes consistent funding levels for global health programs like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, the budget includes consistent levels of funding for refugee related programs, including the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees. (Alas, it is likely that the administration will nonetheless withhold the disbursement for UNRWA for political reasons.)

In sum, with the exception of UN Peacekeeping, American commitments to the United Nations remained consistent with America’s traditional role as the indispensable member state of the UN.

For more detailed analysis (and the original data upon which this post was written) see this memo from the Better World Campaign.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/01/without-more-extra-budgetary-funding-human-rights-work-in-the-un-is-in-trouble/

European Parliament wants more funding for NGOs and civil society to defend human rights and democracy

January 18, 2019

The EU should do more to promote democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights across the EU, including through support to civil society organisations, says an article in the European Sting of 18 January 2019.

MEPs endorsed on Thursday the position of the Civil Liberties Committee to triple the funds allocated in the long-term EU budget (2021-2027) for the Rights and Values Programme, up to 1.834 billion euros (the European Commission had proposed €642 million). Parliament’s mandate to start negotiations with EU ministers was approved with 426 votes to 152 and 45 abstentions. With a general objective to protect and promote the rights and values enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty through support to civil society organisations at local, regional, national and transnational level, the Programme seeks to promote equality and non-discrimination, encourage citizens’ engagement and participation in the democratic process, and fight violence.

MEPs decided to specifically mention the protection and promotion of democracy and the rule of law as the main aim, as these are a prerequisite for protecting fundamental rights and for ensuring mutual trust among member states and of citizens’ trust in the European Union, says the text.

Regarding the activities to be funded with EU money, Parliament suggests awareness-raising campaigns on European core values and the rights and obligations derived from EU citizenship. Initiatives to reflect on the factors that lead to totalitarian regimes occurring and to commemorate their victims were also suggested. MEPs also want to support town-twinning projects, human rights defenders and whistle-blowers, measures countering hate-speech and misinformation, and protection of victims of violence, among others.

MEPs agreed that, in exceptional cases, when there is a serious and rapid deterioration of the situation in a member state and the founding values are at risk, the European Commission may open a call for proposals, under a fast-track procedure, to fund civil society organisations to facilitate and support the democratic dialogue in the country.

Promoting rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU

The assault on human rights in the UN is starting to hurt

April 1, 2018

Success in passing the “win-win resolution” in the UN Human Rights Council [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/26/chinas-win-win-resolution-gets-the-votes-in-the-un-council/], is just the visible part of a larger and more ominous assault on the human rights system as it has been built up (however incomplete and painstaking) over the last decades. Julian Borger in the Guardian of 27 March 2018 (“China and Russia accused of waging ‘war on human rights’ at UN”) describes how the two countries lobbied to cut funding for human rights monitors and for a senior post dedicated to human rights work. This all seems to fit very well with the trend started in 2016 and which I tried to describe in early 2017 in a series of posts, of which the last one was: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/24/2017-10-need-to-reset-for-human-rights-movement/.

The funding of the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva has also been cut. The current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced that he will be stepping down this year and not seeking another term in the post, explaining to his staff that the lack of global support for protecting human rights made his job untenable. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/22/bound-to-happen-but-still-high-commissioner-zeid-announces-he-will-not-seek-second-term/]

Last week, Zeid was due to address the UN security council on plight of civilians in Syria but before he began, Russia called a procedural vote to stop him speaking on the grounds that the council was not the proper forum for discussing human rights. “The fifth committee has become a battleground for human rights,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Guardian. “Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.”

China has real political momentum at the UN now,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations, said. “It is now the second biggest contributor the UN budget after the US, and is increasingly confident in its efforts to roll back UN human rights activities. It is also pushing its own agenda – with an emphasis on ‘harmony’ rather than individual rights in UN forums. And a lot of countries like what they hear.”

A western diplomat at the UN conceded that human rights were losing ground at the UN, in part because China had become a more assertive voice, prepared to lead lobbying campaigns, and because Beijing is increasingly leveraging its vast and growing investments in the developing world to win votes for its agenda at the UN.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/china-and-russia-accused-of-waging-war-on-human-rights-at-un

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/a-new-low-for-the-un-security-council-as-russia-takes-syrian-human-rights-off-the-table/

Without more extra-budgetary funding human rights work in the UN is in trouble

March 1, 2018

In a year that deep cuts were made to UN budgets, resourcing for human rights also activities took a big hit. The UN General Assembly’s approved approximately 50% less funding for some human rights posts than requested. Funds to support the work of treaty bodies were cut, but the need to adequately fund treaty bodies was reaffirmed, establishing a mandate for future resource requests.

Decisions directly affecting human rights activities were caught up in a powerful push – particularly by the US – for deep cuts to the proposed biennium budget. The approved UN regular budget for 2018 -2019 of $5.397 billion, is almost $200 million below what the Secretary General had sought, and 5% less than the budget approved for 2016-2017.

The percentage of the UN budget directed to support the human rights pillar is already tiny. To then carve off funding for posts already agreed as essential, makes no sense,’ she added. ‘The General Assembly ignores the fact that investing in human rights protection is a smart choice. ISHR’s Tess McEvoy said on 4 January 2018. (for more information on the budget cuts see https://www.ishr.ch/news/unga72-human-rights-funding-takes-hit-key-mandate-reaffirmed).

On 27 February 2018 the OHCHR announced that Norway has pledged to increase its funding for the UN Human Rights Office, giving some USD 18m dollars – a year over four years. Generally there is impressive support for human rights from Scandinavia (Denmark is doubling its funding for 2018 USD 10m, and in 2017, Sweden was the second biggest donor with some USD16m).

However, even with a record USD142.8m in voluntary contributions last year, the UN Office still fell short of the funds needed to respond to all requests for assistance. Therefore it has just launched  appeal for extra-budgetary funding for 2018 – with as most ambitious target yet, amounting to USD278.3m.

The OHCHR hopes that the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will encourage all UN Member States to make voluntary contributions. If you want to see how much individual States gave to the UN Human Rights Office in 2017, please see: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/FundingBudget/VoluntaryContributions2017.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22715&LangID=E

And by the way, human rights work in the UN costs money

February 1, 2013

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navane...

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. on Thursday 31 January launched an appeal for US$130.4 million in 2013, telling donors that the UN Human Rights Office could respond to more of the many requests for assistance she receives if additional resources were made available. Despite reducing its expenditure by more than 7.5 percent in 2012, the UN Human Rights Office experienced a funding shortfall for the third year in a row. As a result, 46 posts have been cut or frozen, a decision which will affect our ability to respond to ongoing challenges, such as discrimination, climate change, HIV-related issues, protection of human rights defenders and support for various key human rights bodies”, Mrs Pillay said.

Clearly, preventing crises costs vastly less than responding to them once they have occurred,” the High Commissioner said. “It is a disturbing paradox that raising funds to respond to crisis situations is so much easier than raising funds to prevent crises from happening in the first place. Imagine all the suffering, destruction and loss of life that could have been avoided if we were able to prevent or mitigate only some of the crises the world is witnessing today……… This prevention role – which is generally less visible than our responsive role – is of crucial importance and deserves strong donor support and attention.

Twenty years ago, when the Office of the High Commissioner was created, the international community made the decision to invest more in human rights, but this sector remains severely underfunded, especially compared to the high degree of public recognition the UN gets for its human rights work.

The Annual Appeal can be downloaded from the OHCHR website at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/PublicationsResources/Pages/AnnualReportAppeal.aspx