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Updated August 5, 2020
United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
The United States is the single largest financial contributor
peacekeeping financial year runs from July 1 to June 30; the
to United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping activities. Congress
Assembly usually adopts resolutions to finance
authorizes and appropriates U.S. contributions, and it has an
peacekeeping missions in late June. The total approved
ongoing interest in ensuring such funding is used as
budget for the 2020-2021 peacekeeping year is $6.58
efficiently and effectively as possible. The United States, as
billion. Operations with the highest annual budgets are
a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, plays a
MINUSMA (Mali), at $1.18 billion; UNMISS (South
key role in establishing, renewing, and funding U.N.
Sudan), at $1.17 billion; and MONUSCO (Democratic
peacekeeping operations. For 2020, the United Nations
Republic of the Congo), at $1.07 billion.
assessed the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping budgets at
27.89%; however, since 1994 Congress has capped the U.S.
payment at 25% due to concerns that U.S. assessments are
too high. For FY2021, the Trump Administration proposed
Background and Context: The Enacted U.S. Cap
$1.07 billion for U.N. peacekeeping, a 29% decrease from
In the early 1990s, the U.S. peacekeeping assessment was
the enacted FY2020 level of $1.52 billion.
over 30%, which many Members of Congress found too
high. In 1994, Congress set a 25% cap on funding for all
U.N. Peacekeeping Funding
fiscal years after 1995 (P.L. 103-236). Over the years, the
The United Nations currently operates 13 U.N.
gap between the actual U.S. assessment and the cap led to
peacekeeping missions worldwide, with more than 80,000
funding shortfalls. The State Department and Congress
military, police, and civilian personnel from over 100
often covered these shortfalls by raising the cap for limited
countries. The Security Council adopts a resolution to
periods and allowing for the application of U.N.
establish each operation and specifies how it will be funded.
peacekeeping credits (excess U.N. funds from previous
Historically, the Council has authorized the U.N. General
missions) to fund outstanding U.S. balances. For several
Assembly to create a separate assessed account for each
years, these actions allowed the United States to pay its
operation to be supported by member states contributions.
peacekeeping assessments in full. However, since FY2017
Recently, due to concerns about budget shortfalls, the
Congress has declined to raise the cap, and in mid-2017, the
Generally Assembly has temporarily allowed peacekeeping
Trump Administration allowed for the application of
funding to be pooled for increased financial flexibility.
peacekeeping credits up to, but not beyond, the 25% cap—
which has led to the accumulation of over $900 million in
The General Assembly adopts the scale of assessments for
U.S. arrears from FY2017 to FY2020.
U.N. member contributions to peacekeeping operations
every three years. The peacekeeping scale is based on a
Key Accounts and Recent Funding Levels
modification of the U.N. regular budget scale, with the five
U.S. assessed contributions to U.N. peacekeeping
permanent council members assessed at a higher level than
operations are provided primarily through the Contributions
for the regular budget. For example, the United States is
for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account,
assessed at 22% of the regular budget; however, its current
which is funded through annual State Department-Foreign
peacekeeping assessment is 27.89%. Other top contributors
Operations (SFOPS) appropriations acts. CIPA funds 11 of
include China, Japan, and Germany (Table 1).
the 13 U.N. peacekeeping operations, as well as the U.N.
criminal tribunals and mission monitoring and evaluation
Table 1. Top Financial Contributors to U.N.
activities. In addition to CIPA, the Contributions to
Peacekeeping, 2020, by Assessment Rate
International Organizations (CIO) account funds two
observer missions, UNTSO (Israel and the Palestinians) and
1. United States
UNMOGIP (India and Pakistan), through U.S.
contributions to the U.N. regular budget. The Peacekeeping
Operations (PKO) account, which funds most non-U.N.
peacekeeping and regional stability operations, provides
5. United Kingdom
10. S. Korea
assessed contributions to the U.N. Support Office in
Rest of Membership, Total Percent: 19.48
Somalia (UNSOS), a U.N.-authorized logistics mission that
Source: U.N. document, A/73/350/Add.1, December 24, 2018.
supports the African Union Mission in Somalia. (The
executive branch generally requests UNSOS funding
Note: Italics represent permanent Security Council members.
through CIPA; however, Congress usually funds UNSOS
U.N. members voluntarily provide military and police
personnel for each U.N. mission. Peacekeepers are paid by
For FY2021, the President requested $1.07 billion for U.N.
their own governments, which are reimbursed by the United
peacekeeping through the CIPA account, a 29% decrease
Nations at a standard rate determined by the Assembly
from the enacted FY2020 level of $1.52 billion (Figure 1).
(about $1,428 per soldier per month).The U.N.
In its request, the Administration highlighted its
United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
“commitment to seek reduced costs by reevaluating
prior to 2001 for both open and closed peacekeeping
mandates, design and implementation” of peacekeeping
operations total about $328 million. (Most of these are from
the gap between the 25% U.S. cap and the U.N. assessment
pre-2001, while others are the result of congressional policy
Figure 1. CIPA Account Funding, FY2016-Present
holds. The State Department has no plans to repay these
(Actual funding levels unless otherwise indicated.)
arrears.) As previously noted, the United States has also
accumulated more than $900 million in new cap-related
arrears since FY2017. Some U.S. policymakers disagree
about the status of peacekeeping arrears and argue that they
should be paid, while others do not recognize them as
arrears and claim the United States is under no obligation to
pay them. Some have also raised concerns about the impact
of arrears on the effectiveness of U.N. peacekeeping.
Sexual Abuse & Exploitation by U.N. Peacekeepers
Congress has sought to link U.S. peacekeeping funding to
the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by U.N.
peacekeepers. Since FY2008, SFOPS acts have prohibited
Source: State Department congressional budget justifications.
the obligation of peacekeeping funds unless the Secretary of
Notes: CIPA funding does not include UNMOGIP and UNTSO,
State certifies that the United Nations is implementing
which are funded through the U.N. regular budget in CIO. The
effective policies and procedures to prevent U.N.
executive branch requests funding for UNSOS through CIPA, but
employees and peacekeeping troops from human trafficking
Congress usual y funds the mission through PKO.
or acts of illegal exploitation or other violations of human
rights. Since FY2017, SFOPS bills have also prohibited
U.S. funding may fluctuate annually depending on several
assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign
factors, including discrepancies between the peacekeeping
country if there is credible information that such unit has
assessment and the enacted U.S. cap, changes to the scale
engaged in SEA until the Secretary certifies the country is
of assessments, timing of U.N. billing processes,
taking steps to hold the unit accountable. The Department
application of peacekeeping credits, and changes to
of State Authorities Act, FY2017 (P.L. 114-323) also
individual operations. In some years, the timing of State
requires the Department to report to Congress on U.N.
Department reports to Congress (which are required by
efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for SEA prior to
SFOFS acts) have delayed some U.S. payments.
renewing or establishing a mission.
Selected Policy Issues
U.N. Peacekeeping Financial Situation
Some experts have expressed concern regarding the
Funding and Growth of U.N. Peacekeeping
financial status of U.N. peacekeeping operations. In a
Associated with debates over the level and extent of
March 2019 report to the General Assembly, U.N.
peacekeeping funding is the broader issue of the changing
Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres noted an increase
nature of U.N. peacekeeping. The concept of peacekeeping
in the number of peacekeeping missions that are frequently
has evolved since the first mission was established in 1948.
cash constrained. Causes include member state payment
“Traditional” peacekeeping involves implementing cease-
patterns and arrears, and “structural weaknesses” in
fire or peace agreements; however, in recent years, the
peacekeeping budget methodologies, including inefficient
Security Council has increasingly authorized operations in
payment schedules and borrowing and funding restrictions.
complex and insecure environments where there is little
Such issues have led to cash shortages, delays in
peace to keep and no clear outcome. Peacekeepers may be
reimbursements to some troop contributing countries, and
required to protect civilians, disarm violent groups, monitor
increased risks to “not only the functioning of its [U.N.]
human rights violations, or assist in delivering humanitarian
peacekeeping operations but also the people who serve in
assistance. Such activities can place additional financial
difficult environments” (see U.N. document A/73/809). To
demands on U.N. members. Some experts argue that
help address these issues, in July 2019 the Assembly
current peacekeeping funding cannot effectively support the
approved the management of cash balances of all active
some of the broad mandates authorized by the Council.
peacekeeping operations in pool (while maintaining the
balances in separate funds for each mission), and requested
The United States and Peacekeeping Arrears
the SG issue assessment letters for the full budget period
In the mid-1990s, the United States accumulated significant
approved by the Assembly (see Assembly resolution
arrears to U.N. peacekeeping operations accounts and the
73/307). The United States maintains that it “continue[s] to
U.N. regular budget. Many U.S. policymakers were
support overall improvements to the [peacekeeping] budget
concerned that the United States could lose its vote in the
methodology.” In May 2020, the United Nations reported
General Assembly unless it made substantial payments on
that the aforementioned changes had helped to alleviate
its outstanding dues. In 1999, Congress and the
some financial strain; however, the organization continues
Administration negotiated what is known as the “Helms-
to experience an “ongoing liquidity crisis.”
Biden Agreement,” which established conditions under
which some U.S. arrears, including peacekeeping arrears,
Luisa Blanchfield, Specialist in International Relations
were paid. Since the enactment of Helms-Biden, some U.S.
arrears remain. As of March 2020, U.S. arrears accumulated
United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
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