The budget deficit, due to the fact that states are delaying the payment of contributions, seriously undermines the work of the treaty bodies - 10 committees that monitor the implementation of major conventions and covenants in the field of human rights. As a result, the scheduled sessions of many committees are postponed, which is a flagrant violation of international law and can lead to the collapse of the entire human rights system.
As is known, under the UN auspices, a number of international treaties and optional protocols to them on various aspects of human rights have been adopted. Their implementation is monitored by committees composed of independent experts. These committees are called “UN treaty bodies”. Their mandates and working methods are enshrined in the treaties themselves, which are binding.
Treaty body system
Currently, 10 such committees work in the UN. For example, the Human Rights Committee monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol. This Covenant enshrines the human right to life, and prohibits torture and slavery. The document proclaims that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
“In April of this year, the chairs of all 10 committees were notified that, most likely, six of them would have to cancel their sessions in 2019 due to financial difficulties. These are unprecedented consequences of the fact that some states are delaying their contributions to the Organization’s budget, ”says a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
This means that state reports, as well as complaints from people who have been victims of gross violations of human rights, including torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances, will not be considered on time.
“The cancellation of sessions will undermine the protection system that the states themselves have been building for decades,” the press release says.
The chairs of all ten committees are deeply concerned about the practical implications of canceling these sessions. They sent a letter to the UN Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights asking them to urgently find ways out of this situation with the states.
Each state that accedes to an international treaty is required to regularly report on the implementation of its provisions, and committee members review and discuss their reports. As a rule, members of the committees have numerous questions, the answers to which should be provided by the official delegation of the state party to the convention. Some committees, including those on human rights, also consider individual applications. And the Committee on the Rights of the Child can receive complaints even from children from those countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol, which provides for such a possibility.
Each committee consists of 10–18 experts who are competent in a particular field. They are elected for a four-year term by the States parties to the relevant convention. Committee members receive remuneration from the UN, the amount of which is approved by the General Assembly.
At the end of each session, members of the committees submit conclusions and make recommendations to the states that are binding. With the presentation of the following reports, experts verify how governments have implemented their recommendations.
About four percent of the UN budget is spent on human rights activities
Sessions of committees are funded by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 3-4% of the regular budget of the UN Secretariat is allocated for human rights activities - about 100 million dollars a year. The remaining costs are covered by voluntary contributions.
“In 2018-2019 The management was allocated $ 201.6 million from the approved regular budget, which is only 3.7 percent of the total amount of the regular budget, ”says the Office’s website. As former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Raad Zeid Al-Hussein once said, the UN budget for the UN Human Rights Office allocates a sum of ten times less than the Swiss spend on chocolate. It is in the Swiss city of Geneva that treaty body sessions take place.
The work of the UN Human Rights Office in the regions is largely carried out with voluntary contributions from states and other donors. However, the current level of these voluntary contributions is also insufficient to support this activity.