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Updated April 5, 2022

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. funding to U.N.
system activities and whether U.S. contributions are used
efficiently and effectively. U.S. policymakers' perspectives
on U.N. funding have varied over time. For example, the
Trump Administration consistently proposed significant
decreases in U.N. funding and withheld contributions to
some U.N. bodies. At the same time, Congress funded most
U.N. entities at higher levels than the Administration
requested. The Biden Administration supports U.S.
engagement with U.N. entities; the President's FY2023
budget request proposes fully funding assessed
contributions to U.N. bodies and paying selected U.S.
U.N. System Funding
The U.N. system comprises 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. For example, the U.N. regular budget,
specialized agencies, and peacekeeping operations are all
financed mainly by assessed contributions. Voluntary
contributions primarily finance U.N. funds and programs,
such as UNICEF and the U.N. Development Program, and
donor commitments may fluctuate annually. For more
information on the U.N. system, see CRS In Focus
IF11780, United Nations Issues: Overview of the United
Nations System, by Luisa Blanchfield.
U.N. regular budget. The U.N. regular budget funds the
core administrative costs of the organization, including the
U.N. General Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat,
International Court of Justice, special political missions,
and human rights entities. The regular budget is adopted by
the Assembly and used 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. Most
Assembly decisions related to the budget are 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 2022 is $3.12 billion. The
Assembly determines a scale of assessments for the regular
budget every three years based on a country's capacity to
pay. Most recently, the Assembly adopted assessment rates
for the 2022-2024 period in December 2021. The United

States is assessed 22%, the highest of any U.N. member,
followed by China (15.25%) and Japan (8.03%).
U.N. Specialized Agencies. The 15 U.N. specialized
agencies, which include the World Health Organization;
Food and Agriculture Organization; and U.N. Educational,
Scientific, and Educational Organization (UNESCO),
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. The United
States is a member of 12 of 15 U.N. specialized agencies.
U.N. peacekeeping funding. There are currently 12 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 2021-2022 peacekeeping fiscal
year is $6.37 billion. The peacekeeping scale of
assessments is 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 26.94%; however, Congress
has capped the U.S. contribution at 25%. China (18.68%)
and Japan (8.03%) have the next highest assessment rates.
U.S. Funding
Congress has generally authorized funding to the U.N.
system as part of Foreign Relations Authorization Acts, and
appropriated funds through the Department of State and
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
accounts in annual Department of State, Foreign
Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations
bills (Table 1). President Biden's FY2023 budget request
includes the following:
* $1.66 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
organizations (about $4.7 million less than the FY2022
enacted amount). This includes $1.17 billion for U.N.
entities, including $150 million to pay U.S. assessments
to UNESCO, subject to restrictions under P.L. 101-246
and P.L. 103-236. (These laws prohibit funding to U.N.
entities that accord the Palestine Liberation
Organization the same standing as member states, or
grant full membership as a state to any group that does
not have the internationally recognized attributes of
statehood. UNESCO admitted the Palestinians as a

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