UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was scheduled to deliver opening remarks at a pledging conference in New York this afternoon as representatives of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s financial backers gather to announce contributions at the world body’s Economic and Social Council.
The event will mark the first time a sitting UN chief has appealed in person for financial contributions to the court. According to Lars Olsen, the court’s UN legal affairs spokesman, all UN member states have been invited to attend the conference.
Due to the exhaustion of funding, Cambodian staff were reduced to half pay in April and are expected to go unpaid at the end of this month. As the court depends on volunteer funding, it has lurched between budgetary crises since its second fund-raising campaign in 2008.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone, the first such tribunal ever to raise its own funds, experienced similar difficulties, borrowing against anticipated pledges in 2004 and requiring a special UN grant to continue its third year of operations.
In a budget plan adopted by donors in February, the Khmer Rouge tribunal requested a total of $46 million for this year, $34.5 million of which is for the court’s UN side. Donors also approved a request from the court’s UN judges and prosecutors for pay raises of between 40 and 60 percent, which they said would bring them in line with pay at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina or the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Japan, which has exclusively funded the court’s Cambodian side since 2008 and is the court’s largest donor, providing roughly 50 percent of all contributions since 2005, will be under particular scrutiny at today’s conference.
The government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced this month it would enact three-year spending caps to reduce budget deficits.
Reach Sambath, the court’s public affairs chief, said yesterday that he believed donor countries understood the importance of the court’s work.
“The people in this country know that we are working to seek justice for them,” he said. “We think the people in New York will understand this.”