Project: Funding Transitional Justice


This article examines financial support for the International Criminal Court (ICC). We first consider how the ICC’s overall budget has changed over time. Then, we explore the evolution of support from individual donor governments. In addition, given former Prosecutor Bensouda’s emphasis on the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes, we examine the extent to which ICC funding is consistent with its apparent commitment to gender justice.

Our research contributes to debates about the cost of justice, donors and norm diffusion, South-North clashes over the definition and delivery of justice, and gender mainstreaming within costly international justice processes. We argue that the level of funding States Parties and other bodies allocate to particular forms of justice is a better proxy for their commitment to justice than their rhetoric, and conclude that the patterns of funding seen at the ICC support the claim that the Court remains, to a significant extent, a tool of powerful states.

Key findings

  • Funding dynamics demonstrate that the Court is a tool of powerful states. Funding constraints are introduced when the Court demonstrates independence and investigates situations that wealthy States Parties would prefer they avoid.
  • Providing financial support to the ICC allows states to demonstrate a commitment to global accountability norms while tarnishing rivals, as evidenced by Western governments interest in funding investigations of crimes arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Many countries are behind in their mandatory contributions. Mechanisms exist to punish funding shortfalls, but they largely target poor countries that are not strategic allies of wealthy States Parties.
  • The Court has not had sufficient budget to achieve its often lofty aims, in particular around gender justice.
  • Budgetary allocations for victim support and defence counsel are comparatively small compared to other organs of the Court.
  • There is a relatively low amount of spending, comparatively, that is directed towards reparation and victim support (generally around 2% of the total ICC budget), and the amount spend on administrative costs is substantially higher than on operations.
  • There has been a high level of voluntary donation to the sexual and gender-based crimes programmes at the Trust Fund for Victims (TVF).


  • The Court needs to better convince States Parties that it provides good value for money.
  • More money needs to be devoted to delivering on tangible benefits for victims over administrative costs.
  • Additional resources are needed to sustain and expand progress on prioritising gender-based crimes and crimes against children across all parts of the Court’s operations.
  • The Court should adopt a gender mainstreaming approach to all budget and resource allocation issues.
  • The TVF needs more of its funding to come from mandatory contributions to facilitate stability for planning purposes.

Image credit: Roel Wijnants (CC BY-NC 2.0)