UNA-UK calls on UK to protect OHCHR from budget cuts
UNA-UK has written to the UK's Ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant (pictured), urging the UK to make every effort to protect the budget of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is slated for cuts in 2014-2015.
As part of its 2013 Human Rights Day campaign, over 140 UNA-UK members and supporters co-signed the letter, including Baroness Glenys Kinnock and Dame Margaret Anstee, which expresses serious concern over funding for OHCHR:
OHCHR’s workload has risen considerably over recent years. The success to date of the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review has placed a significant extra burden on OHCHR. Resolutions creating new special procedure mandates, commissions of inquiry or calling for greater technical assistance are rarely combined with an equivalent increase in funding, stretching OHCHR’s limited resources ever-further.
Despite this, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee is discussing reducing OHCHR’s already disproportionately small budget by five per cent, or $8.3 million, in 2014-2015. This is in addition to the 12 per cent cut already made by the Office this year.
UNA-UK and its members and supporters ask that the UK uses its engagement with the UN's Fifth Committee - where the 2014-2015 regular budget is due to be decided on 24 December - to ensure that OHCHR's budget is not reduced further.
UK contributions to OHCHR
On Human Rights Day, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced a further £500,000 in voluntary contributions for OHCHR. Though welcome news, this amount will unfortunately do little to tackle the Office's long-term funding issues, or the predicted $15 million deficit it faces this year.
The funding issue was also raised in the House of Lords this week by Lord Hannay of Chiswick, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations, which receives secretariat support from UNA-UK. Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State at the FCO with responsibility for the UN, stated:
We are incredibly aware of the pressures on OHCHR in terms of its funding and that we do feel that it should be properly resourced. However, that does not stop us from making quite strong representations for better budget management.
Baroness Warsi's point has also been made by the Department for International Development. (DFID), which contributes £2.5 million to OHCHR annually. On Monday DFID published a 2013 update on OHCHR as part of its ongoing Multilateral Aid Review, which assesses the impact of UK aid spending on multilateral organisations.
DFID reports that whilst OHCHR has made some progress since its previous review in 2011, it concludes that more must be done to demonstrate that it provides the UK with "value for money". In response, OHCHR stated:
Human rights work is neither characterized by distribution of relief items, nor by the delivery of health services or the eradication of diseases. Therefore, baselines for human rights are not linear and it doesn’t always make sense to compare one year to another.