“The SCA was informed of the UK Government response to the Independent Review carried out in 2022, in which the Government accepted the majority of the recommendations made. The SCA obtained confirmation that the NIHRC has received an exceptional uplift to its 2023-2024 budget. The NIHRC informed the SCA that this uplift is welcomed as it allows it to operate at the minimum financial level required to implement most of its core functions. However, the NIHRC informed that this increase will not allow the continuation of some its work, particularly in relation to human rights education.
The NIHRC noted that this short-term budget uplift does not provide for its financial stability in the long-term. The SCA notes that the second recommendation of the Independent Review, which related to the need for a comprehensive budget review to establish a baseline budget for the NIHRC, has not yet been implemented. However, the SCA was informed that the NIHRC and relevant authorities are working together on Terms of Reference for a budget review. The NIHRC informed the SCA that it expects the review would be completed in time to inform the next Spending Round in 2025. While recognising the short-term uplift of the NIHRC budget and its reported close cooperation with relevant authorities, the SCA is of the view that the long-term financial sustainability of the NIHRC has not yet been ensured. The SCA was also informed of the Government’s public commitment to continue supporting the NIHRC, particularly with regard to financial adequacy and stability.
The SCA reiterates that, to function effectively, an NHRI must be provided with an appropriate level of funding in order to guarantee its ability to freely determine its priorities and activities, including the recruitment and retention of the required expertise. The SCA notes that the NIHRC has submitted a proposal to address concerns in relation to recruitment and retention of staff.
In particular, adequate funding should, to a reasonable degree, ensure the gradual and progressive realization of improvement in the NIHRC´s operation and the fulfilment of its mandate. Provisions of an adequate funding by the State should, at a minimum, include the following:
– The allocation of funds for premises that are accessible to the wider community, including for persons with disabilities. In certain circumstances, in order to promote independence and accessibility, this may require that offices are not co-located with other government agencies;
– Salaries and benefits awarded to staff comparable to those of civil servants performing similar tasks in other independent institutions of the State;
– Remuneration of members of its decision-making body (where appropriate); and
– The allocation of a sufficient amount of resources for mandated activities.
The SCA recommends that the NIHRC continue its engagement with relevant national authorities, in line with their public commitment, to ensure an adequate and appropriate level of funding as well as long term financial sustainability to enable it to carry out the full breadth of its mandate in an efficient and effective manner.
The SCA refers to Paris Principle B.2 and to its General Observation 1.10 on ´Adequate funding of NHRI´s´.”