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Updated November 2, 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
Note: Italics represent permanent Security Council members.
executive branch generally requests UNSOS funding
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
their own governments, which are reimbursed by the United
For FY2021, the President requested $1.07 billion for U.N.
Nations at a standard rate determined by the Assembly
peacekeeping through the CIPA account, a 29% decrease
(about $1,428 per soldier per month).The U.N.
from the enacted FY2020 level of $1.52 billion (Figure 1).
In its request, the Administration highlighted its
United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
“commitment to seek reduced costs by reevaluating
peacekeeping operations total about $328 million. (Most of
mandates, design and implementation” of peacekeeping.
these are from the gap between the 25% U.S. cap and the
U.N. assessment pre-2001, while others are the result of
Figure 1. CIPA Account Funding, FY2016-Present
congressional policy holds. The State Department has no
(Actual funding levels unless otherwise indicated.)
plans to repay these arrears.) As previously noted, the
United States has also accumulated more than $900 million
U.S. $ in billions
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
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.
Source: State Department congressional budget justifications.
peacekeepers. Since FY2008, SFOPS acts have prohibited
Notes: CIPA funding does not include UNMOGIP and UNTSO,
the obligation of peacekeeping funds unless the Secretary of
which are funded through the U.N. regular budget in CIO. The
State certifies that the United Nations is implementing
executive branch requests funding for UNSOS through CIPA, but
effective policies and procedures to prevent U.N.
Congress usual y funds the mission through PKO.
employees and peacekeeping troops from human trafficking
or acts of illegal exploitation or other violations of human
U.S. funding may fluctuate annually depending on several
rights. Since FY2017, SFOPS bills have also prohibited
factors, including discrepancies between the peacekeeping
assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign
assessment and the enacted U.S. cap, changes to the scale
country if there is credible information that such unit has
of assessments, timing of U.N. billing processes,
engaged in SEA until the Secretary certifies the country is
application of peacekeeping credits, and changes to
taking steps to hold the unit accountable. The Department
individual operations. In recent years, the timing of State
of State Authorities Act, FY2017 (P.L. 114-323) also
Department reports to Congress (which are required by
requires the Department to report to Congress on U.N.
SFOPS acts) have delayed some U.S. payments.
efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for SEA prior to
Selected Policy Issues
renewing or establishing a mission.
U.N. Peacekeeping Financial Situation
Funding and Growth of U.N. Peacekeeping
Some experts have expressed concern regarding the
Associated with debates over the level and extent of
financial status of U.N. peacekeeping operations. In a
peacekeeping funding is the broader issue of the changing
March 2019 report to the General Assembly, U.N.
nature of U.N. peacekeeping. The concept of peacekeeping
Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres noted an increase
has evolved since the first mission was established in 1948.
in the number of peacekeeping missions that are frequently
“Traditional” peacekeeping involves implementing cease-
cash constrained. Causes include member state payment
fire or peace agreements; however, in recent years, the
patterns and arrears, and “structural weaknesses” in
Security Council has increasingly authorized operations in
peacekeeping budget methodologies, including inefficient
complex and insecure environments where there is little
payment schedules and borrowing and funding restrictions.
peace to keep and no clear outcome. Peacekeepers may be
Such issues have led to cash shortages, delays in
required to protect civilians, disarm violent groups, monitor
reimbursements to some troop contributing countries, and
human rights violations, or assist in delivering humanitarian
increased risks to “not only the functioning of its [U.N.]
assistance. Such activities can place additional financial
peacekeeping operations but also the people who serve in
demands on U.N. members. Some experts argue that
difficult environments” (U.N. document A/73/809). To help
current peacekeeping funding cannot effectively support the
address these issues, in July 2019 the Assembly approved
some of the broad mandates authorized by the Council.
the management of cash balances of all active peacekeeping
operations in pool (while maintaining the balances in
The United States and Peacekeeping Arrears
separate funds for each mission), and requested the SG
In the mid-1990s, the United States accumulated significant
issue assessment letters for the full budget period approved
arrears to U.N. peacekeeping operations accounts and the
by the Assembly (Assembly resolution 73/307). The United
U.N. regular budget. Many U.S. policymakers were
States maintains that it “continue[s] to support overall
concerned that the United States could lose its vote in the
improvements to the [peacekeeping] budget methodology.”
General Assembly unless it made substantial payments on
In October 2020, the United Nations reported that the
its outstanding dues. In 1999, Congress and the
aforementioned changes had helped to alleviate some
Administration negotiated what is known as the “Helms-
financial strain; however, the organization continues to
Biden Agreement,” which established conditions under
experience an “deepening liquidity crisis.”
which some U.S. arrears, including peacekeeping arrears,
were paid. Since the enactment of Helms-Biden, some U.S.
Luisa Blanchfield, Specialist in International Relations
arrears remain. As of November 2020, U.S. arrears
accumulated prior to 2001 for both open and closed
United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
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