The UN regular budget covers the UN’s core bodies and activities, including special political missions. The
current assessment structure sets maximum (22 percent) and minimum (.001 percent) rates for Member
States, with a country’s rate based on its ability to pay. That is determined by a complex formula which takes into account a Member State’s gross national income (GNI), GNI per capita, and several other economic indicators.
Assessment rates are renegotiated and approved by the General Assembly every three years. Given the U.S.’s high level of economic development and per capita income relative to other countries, it pays the maximum rate. Over time, the U.S. has negotiated several reductions in its share, most notably an agreement in 2000 to establish the current maximum and minimum assessment structure, essentially capping U.S. contributions at 22 percent. Prior to this agreement, the U.S. was assessed 25 percent of the regular budget.
The U.S. regular budget contribution is included under the State Department’s “Contributions to International
Organizations” (CIO) account. In addition to the regular budget, CIO covers U.S. assessments for more than
40 other international organizations, including NATO, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the
World Health Organization (WHO).
Like the regular budget, peacekeeping assessments are based on a Member State’s ability to pay, with one major difference: the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council—the U.S., U.K., China, France, and Russia—shoulder a higher proportion of peacekeeping costs relative to what they pay for the regular budget. Since the P5 hold veto power over Security Council decisions, in effect no UN peacekeeping mission can be deployed without their support. The P5’s higher financial responsibility is therefore meant to reflect its unique role in authorizing peacekeeping missions and crafting their mandates. Similar to the regular budget, peacekeeping rates are revised every three years, and new assessment rates for 2019-2021 were approved in December 2018.
Over the past two decades, the U.S. rate has decreased from a high of 31.7 percent in 1994 to the 27.9 percent rate in effect today. At the same time, other countries have seen their assessment rates increase.
U.S. contributions to the UN peacekeeping budget are included under the State Department’s “Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities” (CIPA) account. In addition, Congress includes U.S. assessments for the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS)—an entity that provides logistical support and equipment to the African Union led peacekeeping force in Somalia—under the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) account.
Since the mid-1990s, federal law has capped U.S. contributions to peacekeeping at 25 percent. As a result, Congress must revisit the issue every year during the appropriations process. While on numerous occasions Congress has decided to waive the cap, there have been several instances where the cap has remained in place, and the U.S. has accrued arrears. Building up arrears risks undermining missions that are squarely in our national interests; alienating countries that contribute troops to UN peacekeeping operations, including U.S. allies; and ceding our ability to shape UN peacekeeping activities to reflect our nation’s priorities and values to adversaries like Russia and China. As such, Congress must address these underpayments by lifting the cap and appropriating sufficient funds to pay our back dues.