This week, the Coalition’s budget and finance team briefed the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) expert body on budget and finance matters during its 23rd session in The Hague.
The ICC is only able to fulfill its mandate if it is given adequate financial resources. The importance of the work of the Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) cannot be underestimated.
During its twice annual sessions, we are invited to brief the Committee on issues which are of particular importance to civil society.
Often, this includes expressing the need for the Court to be granted the resources needed to meet all of its prosecutorial, judicial and organizational requirements, as well as its obligations to defendants and victims.
At this session, the budget and finance team urged the CBF to carefully consider granting the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) further resources, so that it can implement its new prosecutorial strategy.
It also urged the CBF to ensure that the Registry of the Court is able to meet increased demands as the Court’s “service-provider” placed on it by greater OTP resources.
Of course, any increase to the Court’s budget must come with the strict provision that the Court is acting efficiently, and this also means that the Court should always be transparent and clear that any budget increases are linked to strategic goals.
Year-long budget process
The process of arriving at the Court’s budget is long, often starting at the beginning of the year and running up until the Assembly’s annual session at year’s end.
During this time, the Court has to first come up with assumptions for the next calendar year and then, around July, publish a comprehensive proposed budget for the following year.
Until the final budget is approved by states parties, the figure is subject to change, depending on many factors, not least unexpected developments in the Court’s activities.
Evaluating the budgetary performance of a unique international criminal judicial body is a very complicated undertaking—as is figuring out the appropriate budget to give to the Court to carry out its work.
Yet, states parties are custodians of the ICC and are mandated by Article 112 of the Rome Statute to provide the Court with “management oversight”—that is to say making sure that the Court is performing and budgeting effectively and efficiently.
This is where the CBF—a little known, but crucially important body—comes in.
Committee of financial experts
It is often the CBF’s budgetary recommendation which is used to set the Court’s budget and resources for the next year. So, the very ability of the Court and its organs to carry out its work–and ultimately to remain an independent international justice mechanism and important actor on the peace and security spectrum–is based on the Committee’s findings.
The CBF is an independent expert body, responsible for the technical examination of any document submitted to the Assembly that contains financial or budgetary implications or any other matter of financial, budgetary or administrative nature, as may be entrusted to it by the ASP.
The 12 Committee members, whose selection is based on equitable geographic representation, are experts of recognized standing and experience in financial matters at the international level from states parties.
The CBF meets twice a year, in the spring and autumn prior to the annual ASP session.
In the spring session, the CBF will often review the budgetary performance of the Court for the previous year as well as review larger budget-related issues such as Court strategies and policies.
During the autumn session, the CBF will critically assess the Court’s proposed budget for the following year and make recommendations to states parties on what budget they should adopt at their annual session.
At the conclusion of its sessions, the CBF also submits reports to the Bureau of the ASP, which are available to the public.