Countries’ failure to pay their United Nations dues on time is threatening the work of expert committees tasked with monitoring adherence to a range of international human rights treaties, the committees warned Friday.
The “U.N. budget shortfalls seriously undermine the work of the Human Rights Treaty bodies,” said the 10 independent expert committees that monitor and review how countries implement international treaties on things like preventing torture, racial and gender discrimination.
Jens Modvig, who chairs the Committee Against Torture, told reporters in Geneva that several countries had created an “acute cashflow crisis” by delaying the payment of their U.N. dues.
The “unprecedented consequence,” he said, was that the committee chairpersons had received a letter from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on April 30 flagging the lack of funds and warning that six of them might need to cancel their last session this year.
“This was considered very concerning,” Modvig said.
The share of the @UN’s budget borne by @ASEAN Member States has increased in recent years. Nevertheless, we remain committed to paying our assessments. We call on fellow Member States to also renew their commitment to supporting the SG and the work of the @UN pic.twitter.com/Zp3l7NziWU
— Singapore Mission UN (@SingaporeUN) May 16, 2019
“It is unprecedented that a legally binding system like the treaty bodies, based on conventions, signed and ratified by member states, are unable to do their work in protecting human rights and monitoring state parties to the conventions,” he said.
He warned that if the six affected committees are indeed forced to scale back their work it would have dire consequences.
It would not only delay already planned reviews of state party reports, but would also force the experts to discontinue their country monitoring.
In addition, he said, investigations into “individual complaint cases about torture, enforced disappearances, and other serious human rights violations” will have to be postponed.
Modvig warned that this would “be undermining to the trust in independent expert-based systems” as a whole.
The chairpersons had objected “very strongly”, he said.
They had written a letter to both UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and to Bachelet, he added, “asking them both to find solutions with member states so that this cancellation of a third session will not happen.”