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UN Needs $278M to Fight Violence, Rights Abuses Worldwide

Seyyed Ali Reza Avai, Minister of Justice of Iran attends the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Feb. 27, 2018.

The U.N. Human Rights Office is appealing for $278.3 million in voluntary contributions to monitor human rights abuse worldwide and help prevent violence.

The U.N. Human Rights Office warns of a global pushback on human rights. It says this is all too visible in the slowing commitment by governments to uphold human rights values in places such as Syria, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Myanmar.

Spokeswoman Liz Throssell says this lack of commitment translates into lack of support from the international community to provide the funds necessary to carry out the agency’s important work.

She tells VOA the agency’s achievements often go unrecognized. For example, she says the help offered to victims of torture or other abuse usually occurs away from the blinding light of the media.

“Through the voluntary funds that we have, 45,000 victims of torture were helped to be rehabilitated," she said. "Our colleagues who work in our 60 plus offices or field presences around the world monitored 567 trials…There is lots of training that goes on around the world and maybe that is quite hard to sell as something sexy. But, it is really important and fundamental.”

Throssell says these training courses teach governments and civil society how to monitor human rights abuses, how to access justice, and how to set anti-discrimination standards.

Currently, only 63 countries are making voluntary contributions to the Human Rights Office. Throssell says this list of donor countries needs to expand. She says Norway and other Scandinavian countries are pledging to increase their contributions.

However, she says the word is still out on the United States, which traditionally has been the agency’s biggest donor. The U.S. Congress is in the process of discussing the issue and will make a decision toward the end of March.

Last year, the U.S. voluntary contribution was just over $20 million. This year, there are questions of how much Washington will contribute after the Trump administration in December announced a $285 million cut in overall U.S. contributions to the United Nations - a move the U.S. administration blames on ineffeciency and overspending at the United Nations.