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                                                                                           Updated March 10, 2020

United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding to the U.N. System

The United States is the single largest financial contributor
to the United Nations (U.N.) system. Congress has long
debated the appropriate level of U.S. contributions to U.N.
system activities and whether U.S. funds are used
efficiently and effectively. Since 2017, the Trump
Administration has proposed significant overall decreases
in U.S. funding; however, Congress has generally funded
U.N. entities at higher levels than the Administration has
requested. Compared to FY2020-enacted funding levels, the
President's FY2021 budget proposed reducing U.N.
peacekeeping funding by 29%, decreasing U.N. regular
budget and specialized agency funding by 34%, and
eliminating funding to some U.N. funds and programs.

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The U.N. system is made up of interconnected entities
including specialized agencies, funds and programs,
peacekeeping operations, and the U.N. organization itself.
The U.N. Charter, ratified by the United States in 1945,
requires each member state to contribute to the expenses of
the organization. The system is financed by assessed and
voluntary contributions from U.N. members. Assessed
contributions are required dues, the payment of which is a
legal obligation accepted by a country when it becomes a
member. Such funding provides U.N. entities with a regular
source of income to pay for staff and implement core
programs. The U.N. regular budget, specialized agencies,
and peacekeeping operations and are financed mainly by
assessed contributions. Voluntary contributions fund special
funds, programs, and offices. The budgets for these entities
may fluctuate annually depending on contribution levels.
U.N. regular budget and U.N. specialized agencies. The
U.N. regular budget funds the core administrative costs of
the organization, including the General Assembly, Security
Council, Secretariat, International Court of Justice, special
political missions, and human rights entities. The regular
budget is adopted by the Assembly to cover a two-year
period; however, in 2017 the Assembly voted to change the
budget cycle to a one-year period beginning in 2020. Since
the late 1980s, most Assembly decisions related to the
budget have been adopted by consensus. When budget
votes occur (which is rare) decisions are made by a two-
thirds majority of members present and voting, with each
country having one vote. The approved regular budget for
2018-2019 is $5.8 billion, or $2.9 billion a year. The
General Assembly negotiates a scale of assessments for the
regular budget every three years based on a country's
capacity to pay; assessments for the 2019-2021 time period
were adopted in December 2018. The U.S. assessment is
currently 22%, the highest of any U.N. member state. The
U.S. rate is set by a ceiling that was agreed to in the
General Assembly in 2000.

U.N. specialized agencies are autonomous in executive,
legislative, and budgetary powers. Some agencies follow

the scale of assessment for the U.N. regular budget, while
others use their own formulas to determine assessments.
U.N. peacekeeping funding. There are currently 13 U.N.
peacekeeping missions worldwide with over 80,000
military, police, and civilian personnel. U.N. Security
Council resolutions establishing new operations specify
how each mission will be funded. In most cases, the
Council authorizes the General Assembly to create a
separate special account for each operation funded by
assessed contributions. The approved budget for the
2019/2020 peacekeeping fiscal year is $6.51 billion. The
Assembly adopts the peacekeeping scale of assessments
every three years based on modifications of the regular
budget scale, with the five permanent Council members
assessed at a higher level than for the regular budget. The
current U.S. peacekeeping assessment is 27.89%.

U.N. financial situation. In a March 2019 report to the
General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres
expressed concern regarding the deteriorating financial
health of the United Nations, which has led to some
budget shortfalls. He stated that these challenges were not
only the product of U.N. member state payment patterns
and arrears, but also structural weaknesses in [U.N.]
budget methodology. To help address these issues, he
proposed several reforms that have been implemented or
are under consideration by U.N. member states, including
supporting replenishment of the Special Account (which
was established in 1965 to help the organization with any
financial challenges); pooling U.N. peacekeeping cash
balances; and changing peacekeeping billing processes.

Congress has generally authorized funding to the U.N.
system as part of Foreign Relations Authorization Acts;
appropriations are provided to the Department of State and
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to
meet obligations. When authorization bills are not enacted,
Congress has waived the authorization requirements and
appropriated funds through accounts in annual Department
of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
(SFOPS) appropriations bills.
The Administration's FY2021 budget proposed significant
decreases in funding to accounts supporting the United
Nations (see Table 1). The Contributions to International
Organizations (CIO) account, which funds assessed
contributions to the U.N. regular budget, specialized
agencies (such as the World Health Organization and Food
and Agriculture Organization), and other international
organizations, would be reduced by 34.4%, from $1.47
billion in FY2020 to $966.2 million in FY2021. Of the
FY2021 request, $780.8 million is designated for U.N.
entities, compared to the FY2020 estimate of $1.15 billion.
The request prioritizes funding for organizations whose


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