UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - Decision Making

© Atelier peinture de Claire Harel, association Mana, France

The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture is subject to UN Rules and Regulations, and is managed by the United Nations Secretary-General through the OHCHR, with the advice of a Board of Trustees composed of five independent experts. The Board meets twice a year to determine priorities and review its policies and practices (February session) and adopt recommendations on grants (October session).

Grants are awarded on a yearly basis, and are renewable. A call for proposals is issued every year in January, with a deadline of 1 March. Applications may be submitted in English, French, and Spanish, ensuring access for small and medium organizations located in various regions.

Between April and October, the Secretariat of the Fund analyses applications submitted as well as narrative, financial and audit reports on the use of the previous grants, and organizes pre-screening visits to new applicants as well as regular monitoring visits to grantees.

The recommendations on grants adopted by the Board in October are then to be endorsed by the Secretary-General. As a rule, grants are disbursed in January, for the 12 months ahead.

The Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees has met annually since 1983 to consider project applications, approve the extension of grants, set guidelines for applicants including admissibility criteria and consider policy issues in relation to the Fund and the rehabilitation of victims of torture.

During its meetings, the Board holds consultations with donors. The Board also meets with project leaders of funded organisations in order to better understand the complexities that are faced by organizations providing services to victims of torture. Board members participate in visits to projects in the field.

In accordance with resolution 36/151, the Board of Trustees is comprised of a Chairperson and four members representing each of the five geographical regions, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western European and Other States Group. Board members are appointed by the Secretary-General from amongst experts with wide experience in the field of human rights, in particular torture and its effects on individuals, families and communities, as well as knowledge of fundraising and project management. Appointments are for a period of three years, renewable once.

The composition of the current Board is as follows:

Mr. Morad El-Shazly, a psychiatrist, published a number of books and held various academic posts, including at King's College, Aberdeen University, King Saud University, and Birmingham University. He was a member of Physicians for Human Rights-UK and an advisor to Reprieve-UK. He currently serves as a consultant psychiatrist for mental health tribunals in the UK and runs a private practice in his hometown of Alexandria, Egypt.

Mr. El-Shazli has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2011 and its Chairperson since 2014

Ms. Maria Cristina de Mendonca, a doctor in forensic medicine, is the Head of the Department of Forensic Pathology at the Portuguese National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Lisbon, and the head of the Portuguese Disaster Victim Identification Team. She is an assistant professor of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra and regularly lectures in other universities. Ms. de Mendoca has extensive experience as forensic expert for International Commissions of Inquiries and served as an expert for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Ms. de Mendoca has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2011.

Ms. Anastasia Pinto is an expert in gender, children and indigenous people’s rights and a civil society leader renowned in her country and beyond. She has been an active member of the Indian women’s movement for over two decades. Ms. Pinto served as a member of the Advisory Group to the Independent Expert of the UN Secretary General’s study on Violence against Children.

Ms. Pinto has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2011.

Ms. Gaby Oré Aguilar

Ms. Gaby Oré Aguilar is a human rights lawyer and gender expert with extensive experience in litigation, human rights education, policy advocacy, grant-making for social justice, and management of non-profit organizations. She is currently Deputy Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights.  She has worked with relevant international non-profit and philanthropic organizations in transitional countries in Latin America including the Ford Foundation and the Center for Reproductive rights.  

Ms. Oré Aguilar has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2014.

Mr. Mikołaj Pietrzak

Mr. Mikołaj Pietrzak is an advocate specialising in criminal law and human rights. He currently serves as a partner in the Pietrzak & Sidor Law Office in Warsaw, and as chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the National Bar Council of Poland. He has extensive experience in trans-jurisdictional criminal cases as well as human rights cases and has represented both defendants and victims in domestic and international courts. He is a member of the Programme Committee of Amnesty International Poland, and a member of the Social Council at the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights in Poland.

Mr. Pietrzak has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2016.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat is composed of staff members of OHCHR who are responsible for all administrative functions of the Fund and are the first point of contact between the Board of Trustees and beneficiaries.

The Secretariat monitors and evaluates the use of grants including through project visits, pre-screens new applicants, maintains contacts with other institutional donors in the field of assistance to victims of torture as well as donors to the Fund, prepares annual reports on the Fund, keeps abreast of the jurisprudence on torture and services the sessions of the Board.

The Secretariat can be reached at: unvfvt@ohchr.org.