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Donors urged to invest more in UN human rights work

High Commissioner Navy Pillay speaks during the Human Rights Appeal 2013.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
High Commissioner Navy Pillay speaks during the Human Rights Appeal 2013.

Donors urged to invest more in UN human rights work

The United Nations human rights office will not be able to effectively respond to ongoing challenges unless donors contribute the $130.4 million needed this year, a top official said today, calling for greater investment in this critical area of the Organization’s work.

“Our budget for 2013 has already been reduced by 12 per cent – some $17 million – to cope with the lack of funds,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said as she presented the annual appeal of her office (OHCHR), which has experienced a funding shortfall for the past three years.

“As a result, 46 posts have been cut or frozen, a decision which will affect our ability to respond to ongoing challenges, such as discrimination, climate change, HIV-related issues, protection of human rights defenders and support for various key human rights bodies.”

Ms. Pillay urged donors to consider the importance and cost-effectiveness of major long-term investment in human rights, adding that her office could respond to more requests, if more funding was made available.

“We make strategic, long-term decisions to work in specific countries and on specific issues that may not be in the public eye, but which we expect to yield long-term benefits, including preventing simmering problems from developing into full-blown crises.

“It is a disturbing paradox that raising funds to respond to crisis situations is so much easier than raising funds to prevent crises from happening in the first place,” she added. “Imagine all the suffering, destruction and loss of life that could have been avoided if we were able to prevent or mitigate only some of the crises the world is witnessing today.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner’s office is the focus for all UN activity in the field of human rights and monitors their observance under bedrock agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In today’s appeal, Ms. Pillay underscored the need for more national development plans to integrate human rights principles, and more fully functional national accountability and transitional justice mechanisms.

She also urged the international community to more effectively engage with key human rights bodies, adding that such support would enable “the policies and laws which comply with international norms and standards, as well as independent national institutions working to address human rights issues, to expand and grow stronger.”