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Report: ICC Needs $80 million a Year

ROME.   There is no clear-cut solution to the riddle of financing the International Criminal Court (ICC), but the best option might combine UN regular budget financing of the Court's base cost and special assessments voted by the UN General Assembly to pay for the cost of actual cases.

That, at least, is the argument of the UN Association of the United States (or UNA-USA), whose executive policy director, Jeff Laurenti, warns in a new study that "there is no silver bullet that can guarantee reliable financing for the tribunal".

Laurenti's organisation has been at the forefront of criticism of the US for its non-payment of UN dues totalling more than 1.3 billion dollars. UNA-USA similarly worries that, if the ICC is paid for through the UN regular budget, it too will fall prey to the budgetary politics, and risks of nonpayment, as the UN system itself.

In particular, Laurenti argues, the UN's current budget, which at US insistence calls for "zero real growth" and has in recent years cut down even on nominal growth, may be too constrained to accommodate the cost of roughly 10 million dollars the ICC would require even when it is idle. Added to that is the estimated expense of between 60 to 80 million dollars a year the Court could cost when it is actually trying cases. Laurenti adds that there remains a possibility that, like any other programme funded by the UN, the ICC could become hostage to political disputes. 

"Many developing countries feel they need every bargaining chip available in their effort to get attention to their budgetary agenda from often indifferent wealthy states - and funding for the tribunal, with its strong constituency among Western human rights groups, may at times seem like a good target," he argues.

Relying on voluntary efforts of states parties to fund the Court is equally problematic, as seen in the case of the conventions against torture and racial discrimination. "Over time, both treaty secretariats were paralysed when many of the states parties simply skipped payments. Both ultimately had to ask the General Assembly to include them in the UN regular budget," Laurenti notes.


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