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[Joint Statement] UN liquidity crisis: Rights groups call on States to #PayYourDues

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The failure of States to pay their membership dues to the United Nations (UN) in full and on time is causing a financial liquidity crisis for the organisation. According to the UN Secretary-General, the UN faced the highest level of arrears in its history at the end of 2023, the impacts of which are being felt by victims and survivors of human rights violations and abuses. As of 15 April 2024, only 100 UN member States have paid their dues in full. Human rights groups call on all member States to pay their contributions in line with their legal obligations under the UN Charter (article 17, paragraph 2)

The UN as a whole, and the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights specifically, have deliberated various measures and proposals to conserve cash, including through freezing the recruitment of staff to mechanisms created by States, and postponements and partial fulfilment of key mandated activities. We remind States that what is being traded off are priorities brought to the UN by human rights defenders and affected populations and agreed to by governments themselves. On the global level, as repeatedly highlighted by the UN Secretary-General, the international human rights system is indispensable to ensure stability by promoting conflict prevention and sustainable development.

The cuts to Special Procedures’ activities, including limitations to the number of country visits and the cancellation of the annual meeting, severely restrict the possibilities for rights holders to directly engage with what has typically been one of the UN’s most accessible mechanisms. It also reduces mandate holders’ access to situations on the ground and the engagement with authorities at the domestic level for positive human rights change and to promote the rights of victims and rights holders.

Decisions forced by the liquidity crisis, among them the announcement of some treaty bodies to cancel pre-sessional working groups and threats to further cancellations including of sessions, are of great concern. Not only would crucial assessments of compliance with the treaties be put on hold, but it would also lead to increased backlogs of both state-party reports for review and exacerbate existing backlogs of individual communications. Attention also needs to be paid to ensuring increased and continuous funding for accessibility for persons with disabilities to allow for their effective participation in all UN treaty bodies.

Investigative mechanisms created to respond to mass atrocities in places including Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine, Iran and Israel/OPT, particularly in supporting criminal prosecutions of perpetrators, are already or will be severely hindered in their ability to collect witness and victim testimonies and first-hand accounts through cuts in travel budgets as well as staffing. Many such mechanisms were created following sustained calls for accountability from affected communities themselves, and barriers to their functioning will not only make accountability more remote but will damage the UN’s credibility in addressing such atrocities.

There are real risks that the cash flow crisis will be instrumentalised to impose unnecessary restrictions, particularly on civil society access and participation at the UN. Online and hybrid modalities for participation do not require heavy financial investments, and the gains are meaningful, especially considering factors such as environmental impact, costs of travel, visa restrictions, accessibility for persons with disabilities and the increased risks of reprisals against individuals engaging with the UN.

Finally, the human rights pillar of the UN remains significantly underfunded, receiving only 4% of the regular UN budget. By exacerbating these deficiencies, the UN Member States are sending a clear message that human rights and their implementation are optional and not inalienable. Resolving the cash flow problems this year will not meaningfully or sustainably address the financial challenges of the system’s human rights bodies, mechanisms and processes that are so important to rights holders.

We call on all States to:

  1. Pay their dues to the UN in full and without delay, both now and in future years;
  2. In their deliberations on cost-cutting measures, ensure that all stakeholders are consulted and that a victim-centred approach is taken when considering prioritisation for funding; and
  3. Strengthen the human rights pillar of the UN by substantially increasing its regular budget.

We invite OHCHR to regularly provide civil society with a detailed, accurate and comprehensive picture of the crisis and its impact, as the situation evolves.

Signatories (updated on a rolling basis)*:

  1. 4MĂ©trica
  2. AbibiNsroma Foundation
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  4. ActionAid International
  5. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
  6. Albinism Society of Eswatini (ASESWA)
  7. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  8. Amnesty International
  9. Anti-Slavery International
  10. Ararteko-Ombudsman of the Basque Country
  11. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  12. AsociaciĂłn Aquarius Supervivientes
  13. AsociaciĂłn La Ruta del Clima
  14. Association du Développement et de la Promotion du Développement et de la Promotion de Droits de l’Homme
  15. Association for the Prevention of Torture
  16. AsyLex
  18. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  19. CAN Latin America (CANLA)
  20. Caribbean Association for Youth Development (CAYD)
  21. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  22. Center for Reproductive Rights
  23. Center for the Human Rights of Children, Loyola University Chicago
  24. Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC)
  25. Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR-Centre)
  26. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
  27. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  28. Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos – Promsex
  29. Child Rights Connect
  30. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  31. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
  32. CHOICE for youth and sexuality
  34. CNCD-11.11.11 (Belgium)
  35. Colectivo de Derechos de Infancia y Adolescencia de Argentina
  36. Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)
  37. Comité/Club UNESCO Universitaire pour la Lutte Contre la Drogue et autres pandémies (CLUCOD)
  38. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  39. Convention against Enforced Disappearances Initiative (CEDI)
  40. Defence for Children International
  41. Endorois Welfare Council (EWC)
  42. Equality Now
  43. European Network on Statelessness
  44. FIAN International
  45. Franciscans International
  46. FundaciĂłn CĂłnclave Investigativo de las Ciencias JurĂ­dicas Y Sociales (CIJYS)
  47. Geneva Human Rights Platform
  48. Global Detention Project
  49. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  50. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  51. Green Development Advocates (GDA)
  52. Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
  53. Human Rights Watch
  54. Humanists International
  55. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  56. International Commission of Jurists
  57. International Disability Alliance
  58. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  59. International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  60. International Play Association – Canada
  61. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
  62. International Service for Human Rights
  63. Irídia – Center for the Defence of Human Rights
  64. Just Fair
  65. Justiça Global
  66. Kindernothilfe e.V.
  67. Legal Literacy – Nepal
  69. MENA Rights Group
  70. Minority Rights Group – Greece
  71. Namibia Diverse Women’s Association (NDWA)
  72. NGO for Children Confederation
  73. Omega Research Foundation
  74. Oyu Tolgoi Watch
  75. Privacy International
  76. PROMSEX, Centro de PromociĂłn y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos
  77. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
  78. Rede Nacional de Mulheres Negras no Combate á Violência
  79. Réseau des ONG ACTIVES pour le Contrôle du Tabac en Côte d’Ivoire (ROCTA-CI)
  80. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Elections en Guinée – ROSE
  81. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
  82. Save the Children
  83. Sayanaa Wellbeing Association
  84. Sexual Rights Initiative
  85. Sounds of the Silenced
  86. Southern Africa Region Climate Action Network
  87. Tanzania Child Rights Forum
  88. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  89. The Oil Refinery Residents Association
  90. Transbantu Association Zambia
  91. Unen khatamj NGO
  92. Universal Rights Group
  93. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network
  94. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

*This is a public statement. Signatures are collected on a rolling basis, and ISHR has not reviewed or vetted sign-ons.