What you need to know:
- The funding approved still falls short of the 126 million euro the court asked for when it submitted its 2014 budget proposal in July last year
- The budget increase the court requested for 2014 is unlikely to be a one-off
As the trial of Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court continued this week, supporters of the court were welcoming an increase in its annual budget.
However, many still worry that the states that fund the international court are not committed to providing enough money to enable it accomplish its mandate effectively.
The budget of just under 122 million euro ($166 million) approved for 2014 represents a significant increase on the 115 million euro allocated last year, particularly given the fact that in some years, the governments that contribute funds have refused to sanction any growth.
But the funding approved still falls short of the 126 million euro the court asked for when it submitted its 2014 budget proposal in July last year. The ICC’s budget has hardly increased at all in recent years.
As the court doubled the number of investigations over the last four years, its budget crept up from 101 million euro in 2009 to 115 million this year.
Justice experts were pleased to see a more substantial budget increase approved at the annual Assembly of States Parties (ASP) meeting at the end of 2013. However, some, like Elizabeth Evenson— senior counsel for international justice at Human Rights Watch— noted that most of the 6.5 million euro increase has been earmarked for the Office of the Prosecutor, meaning that other parts of the court will not get much more than at present.
The sections that support victim participation and witness protection are particularly stretched.
“It is obviously a positive thing that state parties didn’t shackle the court to a zero-growth policy this year,” Evenson told Institute for War Peace Reporting (IWPR).
“[But] I don’t think we’re out of the woods. Even though the budget is larger this year, I don’t see it as representing a significant break from wanting to really hold down the court’s resources and a reluctance to fund the court to the extent that it needs to be funded.”
In October, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda released a new investigations strategy setting out how the court could improve its prosecution record. Five of its cases— three of them in Kenya — have failed to come to trial because of lack of evidence. (READ: ICC seeks Sh1 billion to prosecute Kenya cases)
Last month, Ms Bensouda asked judges to postpone the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta so that she can find more evidence. Her office’s ability to launch successful prosecutions during its 11 years of operation has been hampered by a range of factors, but most boil down to lack of money.
Until now, the office has got by on limited resources by rotating small groups of investigators across different cases in two or three countries.
“The court operates on a shoestring budget, which greatly affects all of its work, particularly on-the-ground investigations,” Phil Clark, an expert in international justice at the London School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) told IWPR. “In fact, one reason the ICC has focused only on Africa to date is because of limited resources.”
Despite the increase agreed for 2014, Clark said funding for the ICC still falls well short of what is needed.
“This is international justice on the cheap — a trend that is likely to continue in places like Kenya and Mali because the latest ICC budget is still extremely limited,” he said. “This shows that the states who support the court rhetorically are reluctant to stump up the funds to give the court teeth.”
The budget increase the court requested for 2014 is unlikely to be a one-off.
In its July contribution to the ICC budget proposal, the prosecutor’s outlined plans— as part of its new investigation strategy— to seek a larger budget annually for the next four years, with a 70 per cent (or 20 million euro) increase by 2017.
IWPR asked the OTP for an interview on how the budget shortfall would affect its new investigation strategy.
A spokesperson declined, citing “busy schedules”, but emailed a statement saying that “despite the reduction in the OTP’s proposed budget, the office cannot sacrifice quality and efficiency”.
While it remains unclear how far the funding shortfall— some two million short of the 7.5 million euro requested— will impede Bensouda’s office from pursuing its new investigation strategy, some ICC supporters say the budget as approved does offer some reason to be optimistic.
Sunil Pal is head of the legal section of the Coalition for the ICC, a global network of NGOs working as a watchdog of the court. He told IWPR it was a “positive development” that states that had previously demanded zero-growth from year to year — including the UK, France, Germany and Japan— were this year pushing the ASP to agree the 6.5 million euro rise.
Pal noted the “greater degree of transparency in the work of the court”, and signs of a stronger relationship developing between the ICC and the states that back it.
At the same time, he cautioned that the approval of a larger budget this year gave few clues as to how states would approach the funding issue in a year’s time.
At November’s Assembly of State Parties meeting, Canada was the one state to object to any increase in the budget from the previous year. It had to be persuaded by other states to come on board. Canada has already made it clear it will oppose a further increase for 2015.
Pal said it was “worrying” that a state should have already set out its position on the 2015 budget, as doing so might prompt other states to take a similar position.
“The fear of all this is that we may have to deal with zero-growth again,” he said. “Next year we may have another battle on our hands.”
This article was produced as part of a media development programme by the Institute for War Peace Reporting and Wayamo Communication Foundation in partnership with Nation Media.