Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU and Member States safeguard UN annual budget for 2020, including human rights financing and accountability mechanisms

17/01/2020 - 15:46
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United Nations General Assembly Hall


In the last days of December 2019 the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Regular Budget for 2020, the result of intense negotiations between the 193 member states of the organisation. The final approved budget of $3.07 billion is in line with the Secretary-General's proposals and priorities and a clear demonstration of the support the UN has from member states around the world. It covers provisions for UN political missions across the globe, human rights, sustainable development but also the operational budgets for all UN duty stations, conference management, global communications and safety and security.

Throughout the negotiations, the EU played a crucial role in defending human rights and upholding the spirit of multilateralism underpinned by constructive engagement, which led to achieving some very positive results. With a strong coalition of like-minded countries to assure an intensified approach against attempts by other nations to undercut human rights funding, EU member states successfully safeguarded adequate financing of all human rights related mandates in the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly (responsible for budgetary and administrative matters), such as UN peacekeeping operations, Special Political Missions, the UN Human Rights Council mandates, as well as regular financing of Syria and Myanmar Accountability Mechanisms (IIIM and IIMM). 


IIIM Syria accountability mechanism 

One of the biggest achievements of this session was approved regular financing of the IIIM Syria, International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011. The mandate of the IIIM Syria accountability mechanism was adopted in December 2016 and the Mechanism was initially exclusively funded by voluntary contributions. In 2018, the General Assembly called upon the Secretary- General to include the necessary funding for it in his budget proposal for 2020. As a result, the Secretary-General decided to propose $17.81 million and 60 temporary posts to be financed through the UN regular budget, which gives the Mechanism more predictability and legitimacy.

The EU was one of the main driving forces behind the final approval of the Mechanism’s regular financing, by building a coalition of like-minded countries, advocating for its legitimacy and gathering the votes needed for its endorsement. Sustained opposition from a small number of member states who repeatedly portrayed the mechanism as illegitimate was successfully defeated, which is well reflected in the final vote at the General Assembly with 87 in favor, 50 abstentions, and 20 votes against the IIIM Syria. If this vote had not passed the Mechanism would have been left without any financial backing thus the perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria could not be held accountable. Based in Geneva, the Mechanism now has a working budget that allows it to hire staff specialised in international criminal investigations and law and gives them the possibility to travel to the region to do its work.

For the European Union, it is important that initiatives and mandates like these are financed through the regular budget of the UN, and not by a handful of donors, as it contributes vastly to the legitimacy from the international community and United Nations as a whole.