Global Policy Forum

Background and General Analysis on UN Finance

Picture Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

This section provides background information on the UN's financial situtation. This is a good place for visitors to begin reading about financing of the UN.

The General Analysis section has articles, documents and national statements on the UN financial situation, including the status of member states' payments to the UN and how some countries, including in particular the US, fail to pay on time and in full.

The UN Documents section contains UN press releases and statements from the General Assembly Administrative and Budgetary Fifth Committee on UN financial issues. Press briefings are usually given by the Under Secretary General for Management, the highest-ranking UN official directly responsible for the UN's finances. Christopher Bancroft Burnham, the current person in this post, worked previously as Undersecretary of the United States Department of State for Management, while his predecessor, Catherine Bertini, used to be executive director of the World Food Program. These statements provide valuable insight into the UN's ongoing financial crisis and efforts to overcome it. During this period, the UN has faced large arrears of the United States and a US-imposed cap on the budget, preventing any growth in spending, regardless of need.

Background Information l GPF Perspectives | UN Documents l Articles | National Statements

Background Information

History and Background

A history of the UN financial crisis beginning in the UN's early years, covering the Reagan and Bush Administrations and the early Clinton years (ends where the Chronology begins, in mid-1994). This is highly recommended as a preliminary source before you browse the Chronology.

Financing the United Nations (March 2009)

The UN constantly lacks sufficient funding. The system of mandatory assessments paired with voluntary contribution does not work. This paper presents an overview of the UN's complex financing and important issues like the scale of assessments, spending caps and late payment practices. (Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

Public Priorities in the Allocation of the US Federal Budget (September 2000)

A poll by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) asked a representative sample of the US population how they would allocate the federal budget. Among other things, they would triple the spending on the UN!

US Conditions for Arrears Payment (Fiscal Year 1997 Budget)

Conditions imposed by Congress on US disbursements to the UN.

Erskine Childers: "Financing the United Nations"

Speech delivered in Rotterdam on 29 September 1995.

Image & Reality: A 'Vast Sprawling Bureaucracy'? (1994)

Erskine Childers and Brian Urquhart address misinformation about UN staff and the size of its budget. While Western media often describe the UN as "a vast sprawling bureaucracy," the UN employs fewer people than the District Health Services of Wales in Britain. Further disputing the misconception of the UN as "a gigantic paper factory," Childers and Urquhart point out that "the New York Times consumes more paper in one single Sunday edition than the United Nations consumes in all its documents in a whole year." (Renewing the United Nations System)

Chronology of the UN Financial Situation

A detailed chronology of the UN financial situation beginning in August, 1994. Includes quotes from speeches of UN officials and government representatives with links to texts.

GPF Perspectives

Research Note: Finance Data of Organizations of the UN System: Present and Future Problems of Accountability (January 2009)

In this research note, GPF's Senior Research Fellow Klaus Huefner exposes the shortcomings of the UN financial reporting system. Huefner depicts technical and methodological errors leading to compromises in the accuracy and correctness of UN data and shows how the faulty data undermine the organizations's financial reporting system. Technical "slip-overs" and methodologically flawed systems of calculation lead to a lack of transparency and accountability. Huefner concludes by saying that "the collected series of data qualify only as "proxies" for the description of reality and must be interpreted with the appropriate caution." (Global Policy Forum)

UN Documents

2009 | 2008 |2007 |2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003


Financing of Operational Activities for Development of the UN System (April 30, 2009)

The terms "core" and "non-core" resources in the UN budget refer to contributions to the general support of the organization and contributions directed by donors to a specific project or purpose. In 2007, non-core funding was $13.6 billion compared to a core funding of only $5.5 billion. Donor states are reluctant to allocate their donations to the core budget, because they want to control where their funds go. This uneven allocation of funds may create problems in the process of UN "coherence" and the General Assembly has highlighted the need to increase the core contributions. In order to make the UN more coherent, the funding architecture needs to be changed. (ECOSOC)


Comprehensive Statistical Analysis of the Financing of Operational Activities for Development of the United Nations System for 2006: Report of the Secretary General (May 7, 2008)

This report analyzes the financing of the UN development system. It contains data from UN funds, programs and specialized agencies. The report compares trends between UN system financing and other multilateral and bilateral development assistance. Furthermore, the report describes the progress of UN efforts to build comprehensive financial data and reporting systems and to strengthen financial reporting in the UN.


Comprehensive Statistical Analysis of the Financing of Operational Activities for Development of the United Nations System (April 30, 2007)

The UN system is funded by a mix of assessed and voluntary contributions where each Agency, Fund and Program has a separate budget and different standards of reporting financial data. Analysts of UN finance have long called for more comprehensive and comparable data on UN finance. This report of the Secretary General proposes a more comprehensive financial data reporting system as well as harmonizing OECD/DAC financial data on contributions to the UN system.


Investing in the UN Budget and Finance (March 7, 2006)

This excerpt from the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's report Investing in the United Nations urges simplification of the administration of the UN budget. This would include the consolidation of UN Peacekeeping accounts. The report also calls for a stronger linkage between the money spent and the organizations' measurable achievements. In addition, the report points out the problem of slow and unpredictable cash flows to the UN budget, primarily caused by some member states' unwillingness of to pay their assessments in full and in time.


Item 128: Scale of Assessments for the Apportionment of the Expenses of the United Nations (October 17, 2005)

Japanese Ambassador Toshiro Ozawa states that Japan favors a "more equitable and fair" scale of assessments to the UN budget. As the second largest donor after the US, Japan pays more than the contributions made by 4 of the 5 permanent Security Council members. Critics relate Japan's displeasure with the scale of assessments to its failure of getting a permanent seat on the Security Council. Ambassador Ozawa argues that member states with "special status" must undertake "commensurate special responsibilities."

Budget Committee Briefed on Latest Developments in Plan to Refurbish UN HQ (March 28, 2005)

John Clarkson, Officer-in-Charge of the UN Capital Master Plan briefed the Fifth Committee on the latest developments for renovating the UN headquarters. Under consideration is the "host country's" loan offer of $1.2 billion to finance the refurbishment. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sought independent advice on outside loan interest rates and determined that the UN cannot obtain a lower fixed rate than what the US has offered. (UN Press Release)


Budget Committee Told Unpaid Contributions to Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda Tribunals, Resulting Recruitment Freeze, Could Affect Completion Dates (November 24, 2004)

This UN Press Release discusses the UN's administration of justice, which cannot function without substantial financial support. Though some speakers at the General Assembly's Fifth Committee meeting "expressed concern" over the hiring freeze in the former Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals, nothing can change unless member states fulfill their verbal commitments by paying their contributions.

Budget Committee Concludes Debate on Secretary General's Plan for Strengthened UN Security (November 4, 2004)

Member states raise concerns on the extensive costs of Kofi Annan's new security plan -estimated at nearly $300 million over two years - and whether host governments of UN offices or the member states should bear such costs. Though the proposals promise improvements, the representative of India noted that "money and posts alone [cannot] buy security for the United Nations." (UN Press Release)

Progress Made in Strengthening UN Financial Base, But Serious Problems Remain, Budget Committee Told (October 22, 2004)

Under Secretary General for Management Catherine Bertini tells the General Assembly Fifth Committee that the UN financial situation has improved but depends on member states paying "in full and on time." Current unpaid assessments include $80 million for international tribunals, $2.5 billion for peacekeeping operations and $725 million for the regular budget. Bertini adds that the UN cannot pay off debts to member states, which could amount to $605 million by the end of the year, until states fulfill their obligations. (UN Press Release)

Under Secretary General Catherine Bertini: May 21, 2004: Press Briefing by Under Secretary General for Management on UN Financial Situation

Fifth Committee Hears Progress Report on Capital Master Plan (May 20, 2004)

A United Nations New York headquarters Capital Master Plan report included several proposals on payments for a new UN building to the host government (the US) as well as funding for additional renovations and a new visitor's center at the existing headquarters. Under Secretary General for Management Catherine Bertini said she would recommend that the Secretary General set up an Advisory Board for the Capital Master Plan.(UN Press Release)

UN Financial Status 'Good, But Only in Parts', Under Secretary General for Management Tells Budget Committee (May 4, 2004)

In her semiannual report, Under Secretary General for Management Catherine Bertini told the budget committee "the [UN financial] situation remained precarious," especially in regards to peacekeeping missions and ongoing war crimes tribunals. The solution, she noted, was simple: member states should pay their dues. Several member states complained that ineffectiveness increases costs and that the UN needed to make improvements so that contributions could be better assessed. (UN Press Release)


Secretary General's address to the Fifth Committee on the 2004-2005 Budget (October 28, 2003)

The budget for the biennium 2004-2005 aims to catalyze the reform process, to better align activities with priorities, and to enhance public information, says the Secretary General.(UN Press Release)

Briefing Fifth Committee on UN Financial Situation, Under-Secretary-General for Management Says 2002 Was a Good Year, But Uncertainties Remain (May 8, 2003)

(UN Press Release)

Fifth Committee Welcomes New Under-Secretary General for Management (March 11, 2003)

The General Assembly's Fifth Committee welcomes under-secretary general Catherine Bertini to the UN Secretariat's top management position. Bertini, formerly the executive director of the World Food Program, is one of the few women leaders in the UN system to have made a distinctive mark. (UN Press Release)

Growing Disparity between Resources and the Growing Workload in the United Nations Human Rights Office (March 4, 2003)

This General Assembly Fifth Committee (administrative and budgetary) press release discusses the UN Human Right's Office's increasing reliance on extra-budgetary funding and voluntary contributions.(UN Press Release)

Need for Incentives of Timely Payment of Budget Contributions (March 3, 2003)

The UN General Assemblies' Fifth Committee discusses possible incentive schemes for member states to pay their regular UN budget contributions on time. (UN Press Release)


The Financing of Development Cooperation at the United Nations: Why More Means Less (August 2012)

The current financing practices are putting pressure on UN development cooperation. Donors are bilaterally embarking contributions for projects they prefer, without directly contributing to the cost of UN’s multilateral mandate in the form of core contributions. The core financing needs to continue to be the bedrock of UN development cooperation and earmarked funding can be a helpful supplement to this. This paper by the German Development Institute underlines the unique nature of the multilateral UN development system that serves as a basis for holistic, long-term development policy work and puts forward a three pillar plan to prevent complete bilateralisation of the UNDC. The paper points out that imbalances in resource allocation can also be prevented by emphasizing core funding. (German Development Institute)

Finance Key as U.N. Talks on Climate Deal Resume (August 28, 2012)

As the UN meeting in Thailand aims to agree on a work plan towards signing a new climate pact in 2015, finance will be a determining factor. The pact would force all nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases starting in 2020. This meeting aims to reach an agreement on whether all countries should have equal goals in reducing emissions. Finance will be key in these talks. No money has been pledged for climate finance for 2013, and up to 90 percent of the finance provided in 2010-2012 consisted of pre-existing foreign aid packages. The US, Japan, and the EU will come under pressure, especially from small island states, to pledge billions of dollars a year to help the world’s poorest nations fight climate change. (Reuters)

UN Aid Finance Appeals Going Unmet (July 20, 2012)

Although global humanitarian needs have recently reduced – from $11.3 billion for 74 million people in 2010 to $8.9 billion for 62 million people in 2011 – almost two-fifths of UN appeals for humanitarian aid financing still went unmet. This is part of a long-term downward trend, and the unmet financing needs in 2011 were at their widest for a decade. According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance report 2012, Haiti and Pakistan received 42% of the total aid, while other recipients with less high-profile crises experienced a reduction in their collective share and in the absolute volumes of funds received. The lack of financing in disaster prevention raises doubts about the ability of the humanitarian system to respond and adapt to slow-building complex disasters. (Guardian) 

State and Foreign Operations Cuts at Odds with Voters Wishes (May 17, 2012)

The US House Committee on Appropriations is debating whether to cut $400 million from next year's commitment to the UN.  Peter Yeo, the UN Foundation VP, argues that failure to pay the full sum will undermine US national security interests. Yeo says that being a part of the UN has allowed the US to push its foreign policy goals and create partnerships for American companies. Yeo fails to acknowledge, however, that US policies at the UN have not always been in the best interest of other member states or the UN as a whole. (The Hill)


Fifth Committee, Concluding Session, Recommends $5.15 billion Budget for 2012-2013(December 24, 2011)

After weeks of deliberation, the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee reached consensus and recommended a budget of $5.15 billion for the UN in 2012-2013, a $260 million cut from the previous biennium. Proponents of the budget cuts cite member states’ inability to pay due to the spreading global economic crisis. However, in comparison to member states’ national and foreign affairs budgets, their UN contribution is minimal. (UN DPI)

"United States' UN-Wise UNESCO Policy" (November 8, 2011)

Citizens for Global Solutions CEO Don Kraus examines the impact of two arcane US laws that require the US to defund UN agencies which accept Palestine as a member. Kraus argues that it is in the US’ interests to remain engaged at the UN. Being a part of the UN has allowed the US to push their foreign policy goals and create more partnerships for American companies like Cisco and Proctor & Gamble. (Citizens for Global Solutions)

The UNESCO Cuts: What's Next on the US Chopping Block? (November 3, 2011)

Following its admission to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Palestine is currently considering joining 16 other UN agencies, including the WIPO, IAEA, and WHO, increasing the potential for the US to further cut funding from the UN. According to US law, the US will not fund any UN agency which admits Palestine as a member state. The US’ defunding of UN agencies will not directly affect Palestine but will have a strong impact on US priorities abroad, for instance by limiting programs designed to monitor Iran & North Korea’s nuclear programs. This article outlines some of the programs that face US defunding if Palestine becomes a member. (Turtle Bay)

Will Congress's Defunding of the UN Over Palestine Hurt US Goals Around the World? (October 25, 2011)

Palestine’s membership to UN member-based organization UNESCO will trigger cutbacks to US funding for UN specialized agencies. According to two US laws, passed in 1991 and 1994, the US cannot fund UN agencies that recognize Palestine as a state. UN advocacy group UN Foundation has launched a public campaign to raise awareness about the disastrous effects that UN defunding will have on US interests. (Foreign Policy)

Don't Punish UNESCO (October 23, 2011)

In light of the US’ funding withdrawal from UNESCO due to Palestinian membership of the UN agency, this article by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova talks about the agency’s partnership with the US. She outlines UNESCO’s support for US security interests and key US private sector partnerships with the agency. Because the UNESCO-US relationship is so intertwined and defunding of UNESCO is in the interest of neither the UN agency nor US citizens, “the issue of Palestinian membership should not be allowed to derail these initiatives,” says Bokova. Note that the goals outlined in UNESCO’s mission statement are not to simply further US interests but to contribute to intercultural dialogue, eradication of poverty and the building of world peace. (Washington Post)

Poll Shows More Than Eight Out of Ten American Voters Support US Engagement at the United Nations (October 12, 2011)

A new poll by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates found that an overwhelming majority of American voters (86 percent) believe it is important that the US “maintains an active role within the UN” and a reported 64 percent of voters believe the US should pay its dues to the UN on time and in full. According to a chart by Global Policy Forum, US debt accounted for 42 percent of total member states’ debt to the UN as of May 31st (2011). (UN Foundation)

Ros-Lehtinen Introduces United Nations Reform Bill (August 30, 2011)

In late August 2011, US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen proposed a UN reform bill that would make UN funding voluntary. The proposed legislation seeks to prohibit US contributions to the UN and will allow the US to choose what to or what not to fund. Currently, the US is the biggest donor to the UN, but it also owes the most money. If the US were to make UN contributions voluntary, it would severely jeopardize the capacity of the UN. The US State Department has said that it opposes the bill and according to a recent poll, 55 percent of American voters oppose proposed legislation that would cut US funding of the UN. (US House Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Developing Nations Protest Move to Slash UN Budget (April 18, 2011)

In April 2011, the G77, the large coalition of developing countries at the UN, issued a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemning a proposed cut to the UN 2012 – 2013 budget. The letter called on the Secretary-General to consult with all 192 member states, rather than just the powerful Western nations, in the midst of an economic crisis. In December 2011, the UN’s budget was cut by $300 million from $5.4 billion in 2010-2011. The move was proposed by the US and the EU and opposed by the G77. (IPS Terraviva)

Ban Calls for 3 per cent to UN Budget in Face of Global Economic Slowdown

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked his senior managers to trim the budget proposal for 2012-2013 by three percent below the current budget. Due to the current economic crisis, Ban has stressed that it is of paramount importance that the UN is creative in cutting costs.(UN News Centre)

UN's Ban to Combat Criticism by U.S. House Republicans as Funding Questioned

The new chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, says there is "a critical need to bring sweeping reform to the UN."  Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been highly critical of the UN in the past, and has threatened to reinstate the US practice of withholding financial support to force reforms.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen in an attempt to head off a confrontation. (Bloomberg)


China to See Large Rise of Contributions to UN Budget in New Year (December 30, 2009)

The UN relies on dues assessments from member states for funding of its regular and peacekeeping budgets. China - the world's largest developing country - will increase its assessed contribution to the UN budget from January 2010 onwards. This is the fourth increase for the nation's assessment since 2000. UN assessments are based on each country's share of the world's economy. With rapidly growing Chinese share, China is now the eighth largest contributor to the regular budget, following seven industrialized countries including the United States, Britain and France. (CCTV)

UN 2010-2011 Budget Pushes Past $5 Billion (December 24, 2009)

Following lengthy and often heated negotiations, the General Assembly approved a core budget of US$5.16 billion for 2010-2011. The newly-agreed figure represents a 6% increase when compared to the preceding biennial budget of US$4.87 billion. The new budget takes into account increased security costs, but the budget does not include separately-funded peacekeeping operations. (Reuters)

Finding Agreement on Member States' Assessments Complicates Budget Approval (November 10, 2009)

There is a growing disagreement among member states on how to determine their assessments to the UN budget. Currently, the "capacity to pay principle" means that the US, the EU and Japan pay as much as 80% of the regular budget. The G77 and China do not wish to change this method, but the EU labels the status as unacceptable, urging new and emerging economies, such as China and Brazil, to pay a larger share of the budget. To have the assessments reflect the current economic situation, Switzerland and Liechtenstein suggest that the states' capacity to pay be based on more recent data than from the period 2001-2007 used today. (Center for UN Reform)

Money Fights Are Brewing at the United Nations as Its Budget Season Heats Up (November 8, 2009)

UN member states are intensely negotiating the organizations' new budget as well as the level of dues each government must pay. Major donor states want the big developing countries such as Brazil, China and India to pay more. Developing countries accuse the rich countries of undermining the UN's essential goals by pushing for a "zero growth" policy. (The New York Times)

NGO Letter to US on UN Finance (October 21, 2009)

A group of NGOs urges the US Assistant Secretary of State to “resynchronize” US dues to international organizations. Washington’s late payments oblige the UN to borrow from its peacekeeping budget in order to meet its basic operating expenses. In addition, US delay in payments to the UN has a negative effect on other countries. The NGOs ask the US administration to pay an additional $1.3 billion to catch up on its outstanding dues to the UN and many other international organizations. (United Nations Foundation)

Only 22 Countries Are Paid-in-Full-Members of the UN (October 21, 2009)

Only 22 out of the 192 member states have paid their dues in full to the UN core budget as of October 29 2009, which means that the world body is short by $828 million. In addition, member states still owe money to the other UN budgets, including peacekeeping and international tribunals. Earlier this year, the US stated that it is ready to pay its dues to the UN in full. However, as of August 2009 the US owed 93% of the total debt of all member states to the core budget. (NY Times)

US - UN Funding Updates (October 2, 2009)

In June, the US Congress voted $836.9 million for UN peacekeeping. For the 2010 fiscal year budget, the Obama Administration has proposed that the US meet its obligations in full for peacekeeping. Currently, Washington's dues to the UN are paid 8 to 11 months late, but this would enable the US to pay on time. However, the appropriation legislation is still awaiting approval by Congress, and the full Senate must vote to adopt it. (unausa)

Development in Reverse: A Call to Strengthen the United Nations (August 11, 2009)

In July, the UN announced a $4.8 billion funding gap for its 2009 humanitarian aid programs, the largest so far. The current economic crisis has damaged the capacity and commitment of governments to continue to support UN development funds. So far, the WFP has only received $1.8 billion of the $6.7 billion needed in 2009, meaning a severe cut back in its rations and programs. According to the Under Secretary General, the UN's development programs could be fully funded if they received only a fraction of what governments pay to private financial institutions. (Share the World's Resources)

The UN's Own Financial Crisis (July 22, 2009)

The United Nations system faces a record budget deficit for 2009. UN agencies, funds and programs have a shortfall of US$ 4.8 billion. Due to the economic crisis, donor countries are reducing their contribution to the UN's humanitarian programs. The instable and unpredictable funding system of voluntary contributions jeopardizes the work of the UN and contradicts the long-term approach of sustainable development. (The Guardian)

Financing the United Nations (March 2009)

The UN constantly lacks sufficient funding. The system of mandatory assessments paired with voluntary contribution does not work. This paper presents an overview of the UN's complex financing and important issues like the scale of assessments, spending caps and late payment practices. (Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

Meltdown Could Derail UN Development Agenda (February 26, 2009)

This article shows the connection between the economic crisis and the slowdown of financial support for the UN system. The economic crisis has aggravated rich nations' general unwillingness to commit funds to development, which weakens UN's response to the social consequences of the crisis. Although the financial crisis is a result of policy failures in the West, its negative impacts will be felt by all countries, especially developing countries. Rich nations should therefore refrain from using the crisis as an excuse to renege on their pledges, and instead strengthen the UN system financially. (Inter Press Service)

Observations on the Approval of the UN Regular Budget (February, 11, 2009)

Lydia Swart argues that the Fifth Committee is the UN's second most powerful body (after the Security Council), but its methods of work are highly dysfunctional.  A small group of rich countries provides 80% of the UN's regular budget and they feel entitled to have a large influence over the organization.  However, the G-77 group of developing countries has the votes and claims the rights of the majority.  In the battles over the budgets, there is much hostility directed at the Secretariat and many fruitless debates.  Efforts are needed to create more trust and a better style of work, even if the basic policy differences continue. (Center for UN Reform Education)

A Chance to Improve the United Nations (January 8, 2009)

In a powerful statement former UN consultant Cesar Chalala puts in perspective the UN role, discusses its effectiveness and analyses reasons why it fails. Acknowledging UN achievements in matters of peace, health and development, Chelala draws attention to the fact that the UN's capacity is constrained by the US and its late payments. Chelala demystifies common perceptions by stating: "when contributions are considered as a percentage of the industrialized countries' gross national product, the United States is at the bottom of the list." (Middle East Times)


Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY09 UN Funding Bill, Criticizes Administration Underfunding of Peacekeeping (July 23, 2008)

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill for the 2009 fiscal year to fund UN operations. The Committee exceeded President Bush's recommended funding to many UN organizations such as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). It also recommended higher spending for UN peacekeeping operations. But, even with the increase in funding, the US will still owe the UN peacekeeping operations $177 million. And, the Appropriations Committee still refuses to fund the UN Human Rights Council unless the Council acts in the US national interest. (UNA-USA)

US Congress Approves $665 Million for United Nations and International Organizations (June 27, 2008)

The US Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill to pay the UN $524 million. Most of the payment goes towards funding the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, while the rest pays for other UN peacekeeping missions in countries such as Haiti, Cote d'Ivoire, and Liberia. However, the US still owes the UN $1.734 billion and does not pay its UN bills on time and in full. If the US expects the UN to take on more responsibilities, the US will have to contribute more to the UN budget. (Better World Campaign)

UN Headquarters – and Budget – Expands (March 29, 2008)

The UN has asked its members for an additional US$1.1 billion in 2008-2009 to finance renovation of its New York headquarters and to respond to the Bush administration's demands of the organization in Iraq. US critics of the UN have called the budget increase extravagant. Yet, the UN does not have sufficient resources due to US debt of over US$2 billion. (Foreign Policy Association)

United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues (February 1, 2008)

Throughout UN history, the US Congress has forced its agenda at the organization by withholding contributions to projects it opposes, and tying US contributions to policy conditions. For example, the US has withheld funding for the Special Unit on Palestinian Rights since 1980 and threatened to reduce contributions to the UNDP for Fiscal Year 2008 unless the agency gives the US Mission greater access to information, particularly concerning projects in North Korea and Burma. (Congressional Research Service Report for Congress)

Why Was the UN Budget Approved by Vote and not by Consensus? (January 29, 2008)

For the past two decades, UN member states have adopted the organization's budget by consensus. But during the Fifth Committee's meeting on the 2008-2009 budget, the US insisted on voting, after several disagreements. A major issue of discussion was the funding for a follow-up World Conference against Racism. Opposing this conference, the US voted against the budget. But the country was left isolated, as the G77 – supported by the EU – supported the funding. (Center for UN Reform Education)


Does the UN Still Matter? (July 12, 2007)

Critics, including two-thirds of the US population, express disappointment at the UN's inability to bring peace to the Middle East and eradicate poverty and hunger in the global south. This Daily Times article points out that member states are themselves responsible for the UN's shortcomings. The author urges the member states to collectively build upon the UN's positive aspects and provide the necessary resources by paying their dues to the modest US$7 billion UN peacekeeping budget. According to the article, even though "the UN system is far from perfect, the world would be a poorer and more disorderly place without it."

House Passes FY 2008 State Department and Foreign Aid Spending Bill, Boosts Funding for UN Peacekeeping (June 25, 2007)

The US House of Representatives passed a bill to increase funds to UN peacekeeping operations as well as UN funds, agencies, and programs. The bill gives $195 million more than the President requested to the peacekeeping budget, although the US still owes $622 million. While some UN system budgeds received increased funding, the House banned funding to the Human Rights Council and the International Seabed Authority, and reduced funding to the United Nations Development Program. (UNA-USA)

UN Chief Seeks More Peacekeeping Money (June 20, 2007)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meets with Washington officials to urge the US to reduce its debt of almost US$1 billion to the UN peacekeeping budget. The US currently owes US$569 million and there is an additional US$500 million deficit in the 2008 budget. Senator Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Campaign, points out that over 32,000 people from the US have signed an online petition insisting that US pay back its dues. (Associated Press)

Ban Ki-Moon: Why the World Has Changed in the UN's Favor (June 4, 2007)

People expect the UN to resolve more issues than ever before without a significant increase in funding. Despite the obvious financial limitations, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon remains optimistic about the UN's ability to stop global warming and the conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. He argues that that the world population is showing increasing support for "multilateralism and diplomacy" in dealing with these crises. (Newsweek)

Uncle Sam the UN Deadbeat (June 1, 2007)

In 2000, the UN lowered the US share in the UN regular budget to 22 percent, and in the UN peacekeeping budget to 27 percent. In return, Washington promised to pay its long-standing debt to the UN. Since then, the US has ignored its promise, piling up a debt of almost US$1 billion. This sum could go a long way to pay for the considerable expansion of the UN peacekeeping operations that the US is advocating. Meanwhile, the US is spending almost $US500 million per day on its occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Guardian)

Biden: UN Arrears Resolution Progressing (May 22, 2007)

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expects to adopt a resolution asking for full funding of the UN and payment of the United States' debt. According to UN management chief Alicia Barcena, the United States currently owes $785 million to the UN's regular operating budget. Barcena also emphasizes the importance of the member states "paying in full and on time" in order to maintain UN's "financial health" and continue peacekeeping operations. (Washington Post)

House Bill Calls for Elimination of UN Entities on Israeli-Palestinian Issues (April 13, 2007)

The US House of Representatives has introduced legislation which would allow the US government to withhold its share of contributions, both voluntary and for the regular assessed budget, to UN programs that the US president deems "unbalanced on the Israeli-Palestinian issue" – or programs which give assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, if passed, bill HR 1856 would restrict travel by Palestinian officials stationed at the UN to within a 25-mile radius of the New York City headquarters. (United Nations Association of the USA)

Statement on Legislation to Allow Fulfillment of United States Financial Obligations to the United Nations (January 30, 2007)

This statement by the United Nations Association of the USA "strongly supports" a US Senate initiative that would allow the US to pay its UN peacekeeping dues in full, arguing that failure to settle the US$400 million debt "is both irresponsible and shortsighted."

Power, Purse and Numbers: A Diagnostic Study of the UN Budget and Finance Process and Structure (January, 2007)

The financial problems of the UN are mainly due to issues of politics, power structures and ideological division. This report raises the problem of political tensions between member states in the budget discussions. The G77 believe that the large states have too much power over the UN Secretariat. Some of the large contributors have a lack of voting power over budgetary questions in the UN and therefore are reluctant to fund activities that they do not control. This lack of trust between the Secretariat and member states impedes the overall efficiency of the UN. (The Four Nations Initiative)


Fact Sheet: Financing the United Nations (April 2006)

Late payment practices, US conditions on UN activities, and a spending cap on the Regular Budget for 2006 have deepened the UN's financial difficulties. This fact sheet presents an overview on how member states fund the UN, including its Peacekeeping Missions, Programmes, Funds and Specialized Agencies. While member states' mandatory contributions give the UN more independence, voluntary contributions - often tied to national interests - now constitute more than half of the UN's funds. (Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

Post-Election, Where Do US-UN Relations Stand? (November 21, 2006)

The November 2006 US midterm elections resulted in Democratic control in the US Congress. Such a victory has many positive implications for US policy toward the UN argues this United Nations Association of the USA article. The author speculates that the Democratic successes will bring an increase in US funding for UN Peacekeeping operations. Also, the new Congress will likely push US President George Bush to nominate a new, less hostile ambassador, to represent the US at the UN, and reconsider whether the US should seek a seat on the Human Rights Council in the next election.

Who Will Pay for UN Reform? (November 7, 2006)

This article looks at proposals to fund key UN reform initiatives to upgrade the UN's computer system and improve field staff benefits. Japan has proposed that all permanent Security Council members should pay at least 3 - 5 percent of the regular budget, which would require Russia and China to increase their contributions. As the second largest contributor to the regular budget, Japan hopes that its big purse would increase its chances of gaining a permanent seat in the Council. The EU also supports raising the contributions of China and Russia, arguing that these countries should pay a greater share. (UNA-USA)

Congress Sends Defense Authorization Bill to President; Provision Lifting UN Peacekeeping Cap Deleted (October 5, 2006)

When approving legislation on Defense Department spending for 2007, the US Congress sadly failed to lift the spending cap that prevents the US from paying more than 25 percent of UN peacekeeping expenses. Though US liabilities amount to "approximately 27 percent of UN peacekeeping costs," Congress removed language to adjust the cap from the final version of the bill. The bill further stipulates that the US administration submit an annual report to Congress detailing all US contributions to the UN. (UNA-USA)

US Gets as Much as It Gives to the UN (August 10, 2006)

Referring to its 22 percent share of the UN regular budget, Washington demands "value for money" and a dominant voice in management and administration of the world body. This Inter Press Service article considers the many benefits the US receives from the UN and how in turn Washington continuously undermines the UN Charter. The US gets more than 20 percent of UN procurement contracts and earns US$ billions a year from the New York location of the UN Secretariat and agencies. The US location of the UN headquarters also places Washington ideally for "spying" on and influencing UN diplomats.

US Drops Insistence on UN Budget Cap for 2006 (June 26, 2006)

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has failed to persuade rich countries to restrict funding to the UN pending US-backed management reforms by the June 30 deadline. The General Assembly will lift the US-imposed budget cap. Developing nations perceive the US-proposed reforms as a tool to give more power to their rich counterparts. Bolton contends that the US will continue to press for the reforms and Congress may withhold contributions to the world body. (Reuters)

New War of Words in UN's North-South Battle (June 8, 2006)

This Inter Press Service article elucidates US ambassador John Bolton's perception of the role of the US in the United Nations. UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown decries the extent to which the US uses its financial contributions to control the UN. Bolton, on the other hand, enjoys and condones US eminence in the decision making process at the UN. Fearing that Bolton's US-centered attitude will further isolate the US and undermine the UN's financial situation, a coalition of NGOs sent a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting that the US cooperate with the UN.

UN Comments Trigger Row with US (June 7, 2006)

While UN Secretary General (SG) Kofi Annan agrees with his deputy's call for more US involvement with the UN, US Ambassador John Bolton has strongly objected to what he calls "condescending, patronizing" remarks. Observers say that the confrontation between the two officials has brought to surface tensions within the UN over US threats to withhold funding unless the organization achieves significant US-proposed management reforms. Bolton has suggested that the Deputy SG's criticisms will sway Washington further against the UN. (BBC)

UN Risks Shutdown over US Budget Cap (June 6, 2006)

In this interview, a top UN aide says that if the US and Japan cut off funds as of July 1, the organization risks closing down. The two countries have threatened to maintain the UN budget cap unless the UN makes sufficient progress in fulfilling US-proposed management reforms. Fearing a loss of influence in the UN, developing nations have resisted the proposed reforms. The official points out that withholding funds will affect fundamental operations, for example, paying for utilities and interpreters, which in turn will affect larger projects such as the UN's peacekeeping missions and humanitarian efforts around the world. (Reuters)

Rich vs. Poor in Power Struggle, Says Top UN Official (May 31, 2006)

The US, Japan and the EU who collectively shoulder more than 80 percent of the UN budget, have imposed a spending cap as a "weapon for forcing management reforms" including staff buy-outs and giving more power to the Secretary General (SG). Poor countries, represented by the Group of 77 (G77) and China, argue that they have no say in decision making processes at the UN and intend to use their voting power to resolve this problem. Deputy SG Mark Malloch Brown says that the growing North-South divide stems not only from the reform proposals but also from the politics surrounding "power and the future control of the organization." (Inter Press Service)

UN likely to Run Out of Funds Early (May 25, 2006)

With a US$950 million spending cap, imposed by the US for 2006, the UN faces serious funding shortfalls for many of its activities. Unless member states agree on UN funding for the second half of 2006, the UN will not have any money to spend after June. Due to a very tight peacekeeping budget in 2006, the UN cannot cross-borrow from this budget either – a common practice in past years. Furthermore, since the UN has not implemented management reforms, Washington, the UN's largest payer and debtor, could limit its contributions even further. (Washington Times)

Without Action Now, the UN Capital Master Plan Is Not Going Anywhere Anytime Soon (May 16, 2006)

The "Capital Master Plan" to renovate the UN Headquarters building in New York has stalled. The General Assembly has not set a budget or financing plan, while previously secured funds have been restricted to a prior renovation strategy. The US government has refused to participate in discussion or release the necessary funds, despite Washington's involvement in renovation plans for years. Meanwhile the UN building continues to deteriorate and fails to meet building codes. (United Nations Association of the USA)

UN General Assembly Votes to Block Reforms (May 9, 2005)

The General Assembly (GA) has approved a recommendation from the Fifth Committee to block management reform proposals that would give Secretary General Kofi Annan more budget power. Observers say that the GA's vote could lead to a "budget showdown" in June 2006. Since January 2006, the UN operates under a six month budget cap that will only be lifted if member states conclude that they have made enough progress on reform. The US pushed for the budget cap, which was opposed by poor countries. (Ireland On-line)

Renovation of UN Complex Stalled by US, Official Says (April 18, 2006)

Washington continues to delay the renovation of UN Headquarters in New York. The US has been the only country to block the US$100 million needed to begin the project, with the delay costing US$225,000 a day. US Ambassador John Bolton claims the US offered US$23.5 million, but was "not convinced the larger amount was needed at the moment." But surveys have shown the 55 year old building critically needs restoration. (New York Times)

Staff on War Path with UN Chief (April 12, 2006)

UN staff members continue to express displeasure with Secretary General Kofi Annan's management reform proposals. Staff members believe that Annan's reforms are tantamount to turning the UN into a US-style corporation "where the bottom line would be governed by a value-for-money ethic." Out-sourcing and staff buyouts demonstrate the intent to weaken the organization and allow the powerful to dominate. (Inter Press Service)

Bolton Presses for New Method of Calculating Dues at the UN (March 29, 2006)

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton proposes changes to the method of calculating UN member states' assessments. Bolton suggests using purchasing power parity (PPP), an indicator to measure standards of living, instead of gross national products (GDP) to determine a country's ability to pay. While the US, Japan and Europe's largest contributors would see slight decreases of their assessments, other big member states such as China and Russia would face higher payments. (New York Times)

The Challenges of UN Finance (March 22, 2006)

A US-backed spending cap threatens to put the UN in a financial crisis by July 2006, unless the organization implements management reform. This report summarizes the high-level discussion on "The Challenges of UN Finance," organized by Global Policy Forum and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The meeting brought together NGOs, UN officials and diplomats to share information, discuss key issues, and consider action to strengthen the UN's finances and head off the crisis.

Japan's Proposal on the Methodology for the UN Scale of Assessments (March 10, 2006)

Submitted to the Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Japanese proposal suggests introducing a minimum assessment rate of 3 or 5 percent for all permanent members of the UN Security Council. If adopted, China and Russia would need to increase their assessments to the UN. However, three days after Japan released the proposal, China stated that it "can not accept it." (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)

Japan May Cut Funding to UN (February 23, 2006)

Japan, which funds about 20 percent of the UN's peacekeeping budget, reacted to a UN report alleging that the world body lost tens of millions of dollars through irregularities in peacekeeping procurement activities by threatening to reduce Tokyo's contribution to the peacekeeping budget. However, some experts believe that Japan's threat really represents a sign of frustration at failing to get a permanent seat on the Security Council. Others, like US Ambassador John Bolton, see the report's findings as an opportunity for "whole-scale change in the way many agencies and entities within the UN system operate." (Los Angeles Times)

UN Looks at Ways to Reduce its Staff (February 10, 2006)

The UN has considered outsourcing over 200 translation and documentation jobs in an attempt to reduce costs as part of its reform effort. The UN is under pressure from Washington to cut its budget, but a study commissioned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states that privatization will not definitely save money. The study also highlights other risks associated with privatization, including secrecy issues, political objections and job loss. (Boston Globe)

UN Bodies Survive US Funding Threats (January 10, 2006)

By witholding its funds from various UN bodies, Washington perpetuates its bad reputation for using its economic influence to threaten the world organization. For 9 years the US cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and since 2002 it has failed to provide contributions to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). While the US, as the richest country in the world, withheld over $125 million to UNFPA, every African nation pledged funds to the agency in 2005. (Inter Press Service)

National Statements

Statement by Japan on Proposed Program Budget for 2010-2011 (October 29, 2009)

Japan urges the fifth committee to apply zero nominal growth to the UN regular budget. This means that the budget is pre-established during the negotiation process with no adjustments to compensate for changes in exchange rates. The Japanese Ambassador believes that this strategy will encourage the UN to find more creative and cost-effective alternatives. He argues that the result will be a more effective and accountable world body. (Meanwhile, Japan has announced a $1 billion per year aid package for Afghanistan, a place where accountability and honesty is minimal.)  (Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN)

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