| 27-05-2019

An Open Letter on the Financial Shortfall Facing the Operations of the OHCHR Office

To: Ms Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner of the OHCHR, Mr Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Coly Seck, President of the Human Rights Council

Dear Ms Bachelet, Mr Gutierres and Mr Seck:

The undersigning organizations are deeply concerned by the financial shortfall facing the operations of your offices which has resulted in the potential postponement of a number of United Nations treaty body sessions scheduled for the final quarter of 2019, and the possible reduction to two sessions for these treaty bodies next year, as well.1 The shortfall has also affected the ability of these committees to implement their mandates.

This comes as a heavy blow in the wake of ongoing pushback against human rights around the world. We understand that cutbacks have occurred due in large part to delays in Member States paying their contributions, and we are deeply concerned both by this financial situation and by the deprioritisation of state accountability. As you know, this issue goes beyond the treaty bodies, threatening all regular budget mandated human rights activities.

The inadequate financial contributions are against a background of a growing opposition to human rights on a global scale. For civil society organisations and affected communities and individiuals, the treaty bodies are an increasingly rare space in which they can articulate and find support for the struggles they face in their home countries. Their submissions have long been included and valued, presenting a clear picture of the realities on the ground and enabling the Committees to hold states parties accountable. Unlike many other policy and decisionmaking spaces, the treaty bodies are protected from a growing trend in multistakeholder approaches, whereby those who cause human rights abuses are given an equal voice and the right to participate on the same basis as victims of such abuses. At a time when civil society spaces are shrinking in many national contexts, it is all the more crucial that impunity for human rights violations can be challenged at the UN level. 

The considerable efforts put into aligning the Sustainable Development Goals with human rights are also rendered ineffective by any further weakening of the treaty body system.

The failure for Member States to pay their dues invites the risk of private sector partnerships with the UN, which undermine democratic decision-making and create a conflict of interest for the UN.

Now more than ever, we need to see immediate actions. Human Rights groups request the OHCHR and the Human Rights Council to:

* Prioritise funds dedicated to ensure the operational mandate of treaty bodies

* Ensure all of the treaty bodies’ review sessions will not be jeopardised by the shortfall

* Plan for extra budgetary funding to address the current shortfall

* Prioritise sustainable financing for the treaty bodies in the agenda and ongoing deliberations of the Human Rights Council and General Assembly

This is a signal that deliberations in your 2020 treaty body system review cannot be business as usual. We are at a critical point, and the treaty bodies and other human rights activities must be protected, to ensure justice and strengthen the ability of individual states to do the same.

Yours sincerely;

International Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos
Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.”
Centro Internazionale Crocevia
Comité de ONG sobre la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer de América Latina y el Caribe Creacion Positiva
Development Alternative with Women for a New Era
Equality Bahamas
FIAN Belgium
FIAN Colombia
FIAN Germany
FIAN International
FIAN Nepal
Habitat International
Coalition Housing and Land Rights Network
Hollaback! Bahamas
International Federation of Business and Professional Women
NAFSO-Sri Lanka
National Law School of India University, Bangalore
Nürnberger Menschenrechtszentrum
PPSS-Anti-POSCO Movement
PROMSEX Red Dot Foundation
Right to Food Network Malawi
Society for International Development
Transnational Institute
Terra Nuova
Urgenci International Community Supported Agriculture Network