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             Congressional Research Service
             Inforrming the legislative debate since 1914

                                                                                            Updated March  5, 2021

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. From FY2017 to FY2021, the
Trump  Administration consistently proposed significant
overall decreases in U.N. funding; however, Congress
generally funded most U.N. entities at higher levels than the
Administration requested. President Trump also withheld or
halted funding to several U.N. entities. President Biden has
voiced support for U.S. participation in the U.N. system and
taken steps to resume U.S. funding to some U.N. bodies.

U.N.   System Funding
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 finance
special funds and programs. 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
2020 was $3.2 billion. The General Assembly negotiates a
scale of assessments for the regular budget every three
years based on a country's capacity to pay. The U.S.
assessment is currently 22%, the highest of any U.N.
member  state, followed by China (12%) and Japan (8.5%).
The U.S. rate is set by a ceiling that was agreed to in the
General Assembly  in 2000.

The 15 U.N. specialized agencies, which include the World
Health Organization (WHO), Food  and Agriculture
Organization, and World Bank Group, among  others, 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
discrete account for each operation funded by assessed
contributions; recently, the General Assembly temporarily
allowed peacekeeping funding to be pooled for increased
financial flexibility due to concerns about budget shortfalls.
The approved budget for the 2020-2021 peacekeeping fiscal
year is $6.58 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%; however, the U.S. has capped its
contribution at 25%. Other top contributors include China
(15.2%) and Japan (8.5%).

U.N. financial situation. In a March 2019 report to the
General Assembly, the U.N. Secretary-General highlighted
the deteriorating financial health of the United Nations,
which 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, the General Assembly adopted several
reforms, including pooling U.N. peacekeeping cash
balances and changing peacekeeping billing processes (see
General Assembly resolution 73/307). In October 2020,
U.N. officials reported that while the reforms had helped to
alleviate some financial strain, the organization continues to
experience an deepening liquidity crisis.

U.S.   Funding
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 such requirements and appropriated
funds through accounts in annual Department of State,
Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS)
appropriations bills (see Table 1). The FY2021 SFOPS Act
(P.L. 116-260) includes the following:

*  $1.51 billion for the Contributions to International
   Organizations (CIO) account, which funds assessed
   contributions to the U.N. regular budget, U.N.
   specialized agencies, and other international


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