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Updated January 20, 2023

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; however, 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
proposed fully funding assessed contributions to U.N.
bodies and paying selected U.S. arrears. For FY2023,
Congress fully funded most U.N. entities but (as in previous
years) withheld or conditioned funding for certain activities.
U.N. Syster     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. 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, see CRS In Focus
IF11780, United Nations Issues: Overview of the United
Nations System.
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 covers one calendar year (January 1 to
December 31). 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 2023 is $3.4
billion. The Assembly determines a regular budget scale of
assessments 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 2022-2023 peacekeeping fiscal
year (July 1 to June 30) is $6.45 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 (18.69%) and Japan (8.03%)
have the next highest assessment rates.
US Funding
U.S. funding to the United Nations is authorized under the
United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (P.L. 79-264, as
amended). Funding authorization for other U.N. bodies is
also included in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L.
87-195, as amended). Congress generally appropriates U.N.
system funding 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 Acts (Table 1).
The FY2023 SFOPS Act (Division K of the Consolidated
Appropriations Act, 2023; P.L. 117-328) includes about
$1.44 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 (IOs). The
Act also includes $1.48 billion for the Contributions for
International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account,
which funds U.S. assessed contributions to most U.N.
peacekeeping operations up to the 25% cap. (This amount
does not include payment of peacekeeping arrears as
requested in the President's FY2023 budget.)
Additionally, the act provides $508.6 million for the
International Organizations & Programs (IO&P) account,
which funds mostly core voluntary contributions to U.N.

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