Global Policy Forum

Financing of UN Programmes, Funds and Specialized Agencies

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Looking at the UN's core budget does not give a complete picture of the UN's finances. A great deal of the work of the UN is carried on by and through its numerous agencies and funds, each devoted to a particular aspect of development. As with all the activities of the UN, their performance is largely dependent on the financial resources at their disposal.

As traditional sources of funding have begun to dry up, UN specialized agencies have been forced to look for alternatives - usually corporate sponsorship. The GPF UN and Business page explores the host of issues that this new trend has thrown up. This section of the website provides some insight into the financial situation of UN specialized agencies and their constant struggle to do more with less.

Articles | Tables & Charts l Links to UN Specialized Agencies, Programmes and Funds

Articles and Documents

2012 | 2010 | 2009 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003


Cutoff of U.S. Money Leads Unesco to Slash Programs and Seek Emergency Aid (October 11, 2012)

The United States cut off its payment of dues to UNESCO in 2011 following a vote to give Palestine full membership, leaving $144 million missing from the agency’s budget.  With a big gap in revenue, UNESCO is scrambling to fill the gap with special voluntary contributions as well as cutting back on its programs which cover educational, scientific and cultural issues.  The US refusal to pay is a reminder of past disputes of this kind with the UN and its bodies, disputes involving heavy-handed efforts by Washington to get its way regardless of multilateral votes and the opinion of most member states. (New York Times)
This open letter, written by GPF Senior Research Fellow Klaus Huefner, addresses the financial crisis in UNESCO and how to overcome it.  The letter calls attention to the decision of the United States not to pay its annual dues to the organization and to the anomaly that the US, while delinquent in its dues, is remaining in the organization and has been elected to UNESCO’s Executive Board.  Huefner, who has been involved with UNESCO in many honorary posts over forty years, is an important voice, alerting the international community to a dangerous but little-noted crisis of multilateralism. 

The Financing of Development Cooperation at the United Nations: Why More Means Less (August 2012)

The current financing practices are putting pressure on UN development cooperation. Donors are bilaterally embarking contributions for projects they prefer, without directly contributing to the cost of UN’s multilateral mandate in the form of core contributions. The core financing needs to continue to be the bedrock of UN development cooperation and earmarked funding can be a helpful supplement to this. This paper by the German Development Institute underlines the unique nature of the multilateral UN development system that serves as a basis for holistic, long-term development policy work and puts forward a three pillar plan to prevent complete bilateralisation of the UNDC. The paper points out that imbalances in resource allocation can also be prevented by emphasizing core funding. (German Development Institute)


Murky Climate Finance Risks Undermining Trust at U.N. Talks (June 4, 2010)

One of the major issues under discussion at the Bonn Climate Change Talks is climate financing. The non-binding Copenhagen Accord of 2009 calls upon developed countries to provide "new and additional resources" for poor countries to help finance future mitigation of climate change and to deal with its already imminent effects. However recipient countries have expressed concern about whether money for climate aid could be diverted from the official development assistance (ODA) budgets of developed countries or counted towards meeting the U.N. target of giving 0.7 of their gross national income in aid. Furthermore, it appears that the EU is diverting resources disproportionately towards mitigation rather than adaptation, which means that emerging economies, instead of the poorest nations, are set to receive the bulk of this aid. (AlertNet)

US Ignored UN Aid Agency's Fraud and Mismanagement (January 11, 2010)

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) supplies a broad range of operational services in peacekeeping settings. This article discusses financial management concerns surrounding the agency's operations in Afghanistan. It also explores the agency's "relationship" with the US. With reported new business and increasing revenues, many not only question UNOPS' accountability and transparency, but also the effectiveness of its "continued management reforms," raising questions about whether the agency should be operating in Afghanistan at US behest. (FoxNews)



UN Calls for Continued Humanitarian Funding (November 30, 2009)

UN humanitarian Chief John Holmes urges donors not to reduce their funding for humanitarian emergencies. He fears that, due to the financial crisis, aid budgets will be pared down in favor of domestic economic stimulus packages in many countries. To make the coordination of aid more effective, the UN combines humanitarian aid requests for a specific country or region into a unified appeal. "The idea is to present a concerted and strategic action plan," Holmes says. (Irinnews)


Good Works Held Hostage by Bush Policy (October 9, 2006)

For the fifth year in a row, US President George Bush overruled the US Congress to withhold US funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Bush administration bases its funding refusal on deceptive allegations by "certain religious groups that the family planning agency is linked to coerced abortions in China," this article from Delco Times reports. The amount of US funds withheld to UNFPA now total US$161 million, which according to UNFPA "could have prevented up to 27,000 maternal deaths, 4 million induced abortions and 385,000 infant and child deaths."

UN Bodies Survive US Funding Threats (January 10, 2006)

By witholding its funds from various UN bodies, Washington perpetuates its bad reputation for using its economic influence to threaten the world organization. For 9 years the US cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and since 2002 it has failed to submit dues to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). While the US, as the richest country in the world, withheld over $125 million to UNFPA, every African nation pledged funds to the agency in 2005. (Inter Press Service)



Bush Hurts Women When He Nixes Funds for UN (August 17, 2005)

Although Congress has promised to give $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) each year, the Bush administration consistently refuses to approve this "voluntary contribution." In addition to withholding these voluntary contributions, the US has repeatedly fallen behind in its dues to the UN. Interestingly, "the cost of UN dues to an individual American has never exceeded 25 cents per year, far less than that of a small country like Cape Verde, which pays $28.92 for every citizen each year." (Women's eNews)


An Insistent Appeal for Aid to Africa (December 22, 2004)

UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland asks the US to reverse a downward trend and increase funding for UN humanitarian programs. Limited resources hinder aid efforts most, but increased attacks on aid workers demonstrate the need for more security as well. Support from the US, as the largest contributor to the UN programs, "is essential" to the future of UN humanitarian aid in Africa, says Egeland. (Washington Post)

US Threatens UN Agency Funds Over Report (December 18, 2004)

A UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on freedom and governance in Arab states has proven controversial as the US allegedly threatened to cut off its annual $100 million to the UN agency if the report is released. One of the report writers claims the US did not agree with the current report's documentation on Iraq and Israel, and that the US has used financial pressure in the past against UNDP. Arab governments also expressed their wishes for change in the report, but not as strongly as the US. (Reuters)

UN Refugee Agency Receives Record Pledges for 2005 at Donors' Conference (December 13, 2004)

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) received a record high amount of pledges, $405 million, from a record high number of states for 2005 operations. The amount -12% higher than 2004's initial pledges - will help with better planning of UNHCR's $1.1 billion budget. (UN News)

US Suggests AIDS Fund Delay Grants (November 17, 2004)

Under the pretext of insufficient contributions for the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, the US administration suggests the fund should take a break from issuing grants. While both countries and private donors have failed to reach the $20 billion dollars a year needed to combat AIDS, critics fear that US reluctance towards the UN program will reduce pressure on donors to step up their giving and result in the loss of many lives. (New York Times)

The Netherlands Pledges 20 Million Euros to Partnership Programme (July 28, 2004)

The Netherlands pledged 20 million Euros over 4 years supporting the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization - Netherlands Partnership Programme (FNPP). The FNPP initiative, established in May 2001, specifically targets countries classified by the World Bank as eligible for International Development Association loans. (UN Observer)

Bush Extends Jihad Against UNFPA (July 16, 2004)

For the third consecutive year, the Bush administration is withholding $34 million appropriated for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), claiming the funds "will be used for other purposes." The White House contends that UNFPA programs violate the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, a 20-year-old law forbidding US aid to any agency that "supports or participates in the management of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." To date, the US has failed to uncover any evidence of "coercive practices" by UNFPA. (Inter Press Service)

Foreign Aid Bill to Fund Controversial UN Agencies (January 27, 2004)

The US is pledging $321 million in funding for UN agencies, including UNESCO and UNFPA. The US withdrew UNESCO's funding under the Reagan Administration citing "anti-US politicization," while anti-abortion groups lobbied the Bush II administration to cancel funding for UNFPA. Critics see the White House using UN agencies to promote "pro-western" ideals around the world. (OneWorld US)

Squeezed Japan Threatens Cuts to UN Agencies (January 7, 2004)

Inter Press Service argues that Japan, the second highest contributor to the UN's regular budget, "is both angry and frustrated" at their inability to gain prominent posts within the UN system. Japan continues to lobby for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.


Women Denied Help (July 17, 2003)

The US Congress refused to fund the UN Population Fund, damaging the health of thousands of impoverished women and children. Conservatives built support for the cut by tying the organization to China's coercive abortion program when, in fact, the UNPF opposes that policy. (New York Times)

UNICEF seeks $166 million to help Iraq's children (April 7, 2003)

Half of Iraq's population are children aged 17 or younger. Consequently, UNICEF's work is vital to the overall humanitarian response to the war. The UN has appealed for 2.1 billion, one fifth of its annual budget, to handle the crisis. (UNICEF)

Funding Crisis as Food Situation becomes Critical in Eritrea (March 11, 2003)

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made a desperate appeal for $163 million to help two million starving people in Eritrea. Donors have contributed only 2% of this figure, despite the dire situation. (Integrated Regional Information Network)

'Not a Penny' Given to $6m UN Famine Appeal (March 11, 2003)

The World Food Program received no response to its desperate appeal for funds to alleviate the famine in the Central African Republic. "This can be considered the world's most silent crisis/" a spokesperson for the WFP said. (Guardian)

West's Failure to Donate Humanitarian Aid Threatens Catastrophe for Millions (March 10, 2003)

The UN still needs $US 90 million from the world's richest governments to cope with humanitarian aid in the event of war against Iraq. The ‘Oil for Food' program feeds 60% of Iraq's population and will be halted during the war. (Guardian)

UNICEF Receives Financial Boost (February 11, 2003)

Donors have contributed three million US dollars to the United Nations Children's Fund for its programs in Zimbabwe. The money comes at a time of desperate need and will go to alleviating famine, helping orphans whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS, education programs and healthcare. (Harare Daily News)

UN Warns of Palestinian Aid Crisis (February 10, 2003)

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA) has appealed for $90 million to prevent its food, housing and employment programs grinding to a halt. UNWRA cares for over 1 million Palestinian refugees and says that a possible attack on Iraq has diverted the world's humanitarian focus from many in immediate need. (BBC)

UNICEF Hails Japan's Aid to Afghanistan

The Japanese Government has donated $10.8 million to UNICEF's education program for displaced and refugee children returning to Afghanistan. There is however still a large number of children that cannot resume their learning as there is simply not enough money. (Tehran Times)

The Netherlands Increases UN-HABITAT Funding (February 2003)

The Netherlands has tripled its annual contribution to the United Nations Settlement Program and made an additional $US 7.3 million one-time contribution. Lack of funds has been a major constraint for the UN organization since its inception so the donation is crucial to the program's success. (UN Press)

UN Welcomes South Africa's $20 Million Donation for Relief Operations in Region (January 29, 2003)

The United Nations' emergency food arm, the World Food Program, welcomed a $20 million donation from the South African government to alleviate the famine in southern Africa. The donation comes at a crucial time with the UN struggling to feed the millions suffering from the crisis. (UN News)

UNFPA: Obaid Defends Agency's China Work In Interview (January 23, 2003)

UNFPA's Executive Director, Thoraya Obaid, insists that the organization's programs in China are not pro-abortion as President Bush claims. The programs have lowered the maternal death rates and abortion levels in the 32 provinces where UNFPA operate, making the organization unquestionably "pro-life." (UN Wire)

HIV/AIDS II: UNFPA Says US Funding Cut Worsens Asian Condom Shortage (January 22, 2003)

UNFPA officials say a serious condom shortage in the Pacific Islands could dramatically increase HIV/AIDS levels in the region. The increasing demand for condoms cannot be met by UNFPA due to massive US funding cuts. (UN Wire)

EU Helps Bosnia and Herzegovina Manage Refugees (January 22, 2003)

The EU has contributed 2.12 million Euros to help UNDP rebuild the homes of refugees from the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict. Over half of the 1.7 million people displaced by the war have returned home since the Dayton peace accords ended the conflict in 1996. (UNDP)

Kenya Refugees Go Hungry as Africa Aid Needs Mount (January 22, 2003)

The UN has cut rations to 220,000 refugees in northern Kenya by a quarter due to the dire need to alleviate famine in Southern Africa and Ethiopia. The UN's emergency food arm, the WFP, has made a desperate appeal for 10 million dollars in donations to supplement its dwindling funds. (MSNBC News)

Links to UN Specialized Agencies and Organs



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