The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture - What the Fund is
“Every day, millions of individuals the world over suffer torture and its after-effects. Combating torture requires concerted and sustained efforts by Governments, the United Nations and civil society at the local, national, regional and international levels. Until there is an end to torture, there will be a need for mechanisms such as the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.”
Sonia Picado, Former Chairperson,
United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture
The UN Torture Fund was established in 1981 by General Assembly resolution 36/151.
It is mandated to distribute voluntary contributions through established channels of assistance, including non-governmental organisations, associations of victims and family members of victims, private and public hospitals, legal clinics, public interest law firms and individual lawyers, that in turn would provide “humanitarian, legal and financial aid to individuals whose human rights have been severely violated as a result of torture,” and their relatives who have been directly affected by the victim’s suffering.
Since its establishment, a series of international legal obligations that explicitly prohibit torture have enhanced the protection of victims and their family members, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearances, Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Protocols.
However, twenty-five years since the entry into force of the Convention against Torture, this cruel and dehumanizing practice remains pervasive. Even when regimes change, torture often persists and a culture of impunity remains.
The UN Torture Fund awards grants to actors offering medical, psychological and social assistance, as well as legal aid and financial support to torture survivors and their family members. It also finances training programmes, seminars and conferences, allowing health professionals, social workers and lawyers to exchange experiences and develop new strategies to address the needs of torture victims.
Through this unique humanitarian Fund, some 70 000 victims are reached on a yearly basis.
It is subject to UN Rules and Regulations, and is managed by the United Nations Secretary-General through OHCHR, with the advice of a Board of Trustees. 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 of an average of USD21 800 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, Spanish and Russian, ensuring access for small and medium organisations located in all regions.
Between April and October, the Secretariat of the UN Torture Fund analyses new applications as well as narrative, financial and audit reports on the use of previous grants. It also organizes pre-screening visits to new applicants and regular monitoring visits to grantees.
The recommendations on grants adopted by the Board in October are then transmitted to the Secretary-General for his approval. As a rule, grants are disbursed in January, for the 12 months ahead.