Since its inception in 1945, the U.S. has been the UN’s largest financial contributor. As a permanent member of the Security Council and host of UN headquarters in New York City, the U.S. holds significant clout at the UN, and its leadership in providing financial support to the organization is a reflection of that influential role.
U.S. Funding for the UN
Why should the U.S. pay its UN dues in full?
Strong and consistent U.S. engagement with the UN is critical to advancing our nation’s foreign policy, national security, economic, and humanitarian priorities on a number of fronts.
From peacekeeping missions that promote stability in various parts of the world, to its work on issues as varied as nonproliferation, counterterrorism, human rights, and development, the UN is a force-multiplier for the U.S., addressing global challenges that—due to their complexity and cost—the U.S. can’t possibly be expected to confront alone.
While the UN’s work covers a broad array of issues and impacts U.S. interests in virtually every corner of the globe, the total amount of U.S. contributions to the UN consumes a very small portion of our nation’s annual budget. Overall, only 1.4% of the federal budget is devoted to foreign aid (including contributions to the UN). Our peacekeeping and regular budget dues account for just 0.2% of the annual U.S. federal budget.
While the U.S. is the largest single contributor to the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets (responsible for paying 22% and 26% of these budgets respectively), other UN member states pay the vast majority of costs associated with the activities funded by these assessments. Moreover, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the U.S. has final say over the size of the peacekeeping budget—by far the largest of all of the UN system’s assessed budgets—since no peacekeeping mission can be authorized, expanded, or withdrawn from the field without U.S. consent.
Peacekeeping missions are also extremely cost-effective, having been found by the U.S. Government Accountability Office to be 8 times cheaper than deploying U.S. forces. Overall, UN peacekeeping activities represent less than 0.5% of all annual global military expenditures, and are equivalent to just 1% of the U.S. defense budget.
When the U.S. fails to pay its peacekeeping and regular budget dues, it jeopardizes UN programs that are manifestly in our national interests and negatively impacts our ability to advance our agenda at the UN. In order to continue reaping the benefits of engagement with the UN, and to be able to influence the organization’s overall direction, it is critical that we make our dues payments on-time and in-full.
Moreover, a bipartisan poll conducted in September 2021 found that more than 6 in 10 voters agree the U.S. should pay its dues to the UN and UN Peacekeeping in full.
What is the UN’s funding structure?
Funding from Member States for the UN system comes from two main sources: assessed and voluntary contributions.
Assessed contributions are payments that all UN Member States are required to make. These assessments provide a reliable source of funding to core functions of the UN Secretariat via the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets. In addition, the UN’s specialized agencies have their own assessed budgets.
Voluntary contributions are not obligatory, but instead left to the discretion of individual Member States. These contributions are vital to the work of the UN’s humanitarian and development agencies—including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and UN Population Fund (UNFPA), among others—which do not have assessed budgets.
Recent funding levels for the UN
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