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Congressional Research Service
Informing the legislative debate since 1914


                                                                                            Updated  May 22, 2018

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 (1) the appropriate level of U.S. contributions to
U.N. system activities; (2) whether U.S. funds are being
used efficiently and effectively; and (3) how changes in
U.S. funding might bring about reform. The Trump
Administration's FY2019 budget proposed significant cuts
to U.N. funding from the enacted FY2018 levels, including
a 13% reduction in assessed contributions to U.N.
peacekeeping, a 25% decrease in contributions to the U.N.
regular budget and specialized agencies, and eliminating
voluntary contributions to some U.N. funds and programs.

Financing the U.N. Syster
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 authorized
programs. The U.N. regular budget, peacekeeping
operations, and specialized agencies are financed mainly by
assessed contributions. Voluntary contributions finance
special funds, programs, and offices. The budgets for many
of these organizations may fluctuate annually depending on
contribution levels. The U.N. funds and programs are
financed mainly by voluntary contributions.

U.N. Regular Budget.  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 U.N. General Assembly to cover a two-year period.
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 $5.39 billion, or $2.7 billion a year.

The General Assembly  negotiates a scale of assessments for
the U.N. regular budget every three years based on a
country's capacity to pay. The United States is currently
assessed at 22% of the regular budget, the highest of any
U.N. member  state. The U.S. assessment rate is set by a
ceiling that was agreed to in the General Assembly in 2000.

U.N. Peacekeeping  Funding. There are currently 14 U.N.
peacekeeping missions worldwide with over 100,000

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
peacekeeping operations during the 2017-2018
peacekeeping fiscal year is $6.8 billion. The General
Assembly  negotiates and adopts the scale of assessments
for U.N. member state contributions to peacekeeping
operations every three years. The scale is based on a
modification of the regular budget scale, with the five
permanent Security Council members assessed at a higher
level than they are for the regular budget. The United States
peacekeeping assessment is 28.43% in 2018.

U.N. Specialized Agencies. 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. For example, the
International Labor Organization and World Health
Organization each assess the United States for 22% of their
budgets, while the U.S. assessment for the International
Maritime Organization is 2.6%.

U.S.   Funding of the U.N. Syster
Congress has generally authorized contributions 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 to meet
obligations. When authorization bills are not enacted,
Congress has waived the authorization requirements and
appropriated funds through Department of State, Foreign
Operations, and Related Programs legislation. The
Administration's FY2019 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, and other international
organizations, would be reduced by 25%, from $1.46
billion in FY2018 to $1.09 billion in FY2019. Of the
FY2019  request, $863.39 million is designated for U.N.
entities-an 18% decrease from the FY2017 CIO  U.N.
funding level of $1.056 billion. (FY2018 funding for U.N.
entities is still being finalized.) The request assumes that
U.N. organizations will rein in costs, enhance their
accountability and transparency, improve efficiency and
effectiveness, and that the funding burden be shared more
equitably among [U.N.] members.

The Contributions for International Peacekeeping
Activities (CIPA) account, which funds U.S. assessed

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