29 Jul 2016
Parties’ payments to the FCTC – also known as Voluntary Assessed Contributions, or VACs – are the key source of funding for the treaty’s operating budget. They are the only predictable source of income for the Convention Secretariat, and are used to finance the activities agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties (COP) as part of its biannual work plan. Only those activities which are financed by VACs are sure to be carried out; all others will occur only if extra-budgetary funds are raised.
Unfortunately, the outlook is not ideal in terms of Parties’ payments of these vital contributions for the 2016-2017 biennium. According to overviews on the FCTC website, 149 Parties remained in arrears as of 15 July 2016. More than half of these countries are in two regions: 35 are from the European region (EURO) and 37 from the African region (AFRO) – see Chart 1. The total outstanding balance is US$6,373,835 for the current biennium, which represents 34 percent of the overall operating budget for 2016-2017 and 70 percent of the portion that is slated to be covered by VACs.
Moreover, more than 20 Parties have never paid their VACs. The total amount outstanding since the Convention entered into force (including the amount outstanding for this biennium) has grown to $7,347,414. Almost half of the amount owing is attributed to the EURO region (see Chart 2).
While it is not entirely clear why Parties do not pay their VACs, discussions at previous COPs have hinted at possible reasons. At COP6 in Moscow in 2014, Parties suggested that referring to the payments as ‘voluntary’ represented an obstacle to payment. Numerous Parties called for the term to be changed, to reflect the fact that VACs are indeed obligatory. This measure was ultimately not adopted at COP6.
Previous COP discussions have also suggested that many Parties are unsure about how and when to pay their VACs. Previous COP decisions have requested the Secretariat to provide more explanation, but these details are still unavailable on the FCTC website.
Since COP6, the Secretariat has been looking into Parties’ reasons for non-payment of their VACs. It will report on its findings at COP7. Understanding the reasons why Parties are unable or unwilling to pay will be a first step towards enabling measures to help Parties meet their obligations.
It is important that Parties participate in this discussion at COP7. Without this vital source of income, many of the important activities agreed upon by governments will not take place.
Learn more about COP7 on our dedicated web page.