United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping

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Updated February 26, 2021
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 2021, 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.
U.S. Policy
payment at 25% due to concerns that U.S. assessments are
Background and Context: The Enacted U.S. Cap
too high. Congress appropriated $1.45 billion in
In the early 1990s, the U.S. peacekeeping assessment was
contributions to most U.N. peacekeeping activities for
over 30%, which many Members of Congress found too
FY2021 (up to the 25% cap).
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
gap between the actual U.S. assessment and the cap led to
The United Nations currently operates 13 U.N.
funding shortfalls. The State Department and Congress
peacekeeping missions worldwide, with more than 80,000
often covered these shortfalls by raising the cap for limited
military, police, and civilian personnel from over 100
periods and allowing for the application of U.N.
countries. The Security Council adopts a resolution to
peacekeeping credits (excess U.N. funds from previous
establish each operation and specifies how it will be funded.
missions) to fund outstanding U.S. balances. For several
Historically, the Council has authorized the U.N. General
years, these actions allowed the United States to pay its
Assembly to create a separate assessed account for each
peacekeeping assessments in full. However, since FY2017
operation to be supported by member states contributions.
Congress has declined to raise the cap, and in mid-2017, the
In recent years, due to concerns about budget shortfalls, the
Trump Administration allowed for the application of
Generally Assembly has temporarily allowed peacekeeping
peacekeeping credits up to, but not beyond, the 25% cap—
funding to be pooled for increased financial flexibility.
which has led to the accumulation of about $920 million in
U.S. arrears from FY2017 to FY2020.
The General Assembly adopts the scale of assessments for
U.N. member contributions to peacekeeping operations
Key Accounts and Recent Funding Levels
every three years. The peacekeeping scale is based on a
U.S. assessed contributions to U.N. peacekeeping
modification of the U.N. regular budget scale, with the five
operations are provided primarily through the Contributions
permanent council members assessed at a higher level than
for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account,
for the regular budget. For example, the United States is
which is funded through annual State Department-Foreign
assessed at 22% of the regular budget; however, its current
Operations (SFOPS) appropriations acts. CIPA funds 11 of
peacekeeping assessment is 27.89%. Other top contributors
the 13 U.N. peacekeeping operations, as well as the U.N.
include China, Japan, and Germany (Table 1).
criminal tribunals and mission monitoring and evaluation
Table 1. Top Financial Contributors to U.N.
activities. In addition to CIPA, the Contributions to
Peacekeeping, 2021, by Assessment Rate
International Organizations (CIO) account funds two
observer missions, UNTSO (Israel and the Palestinians) and
1. United States
6. France
UNMOGIP (India and Pakistan), through U.S.
2. China
7. Italy
contributions to the U.N. regular budget. The Peacekeeping
3. Japan
8. Russia
Operations (PKO) account, which funds most non-U.N.
4. Germany
9. Canada
peacekeeping and regional stability operations, provides
5. United Kingdom
10. S. Korea
assessed contributions to the U.N. Support Office in
Somalia (UNSOS), a U.N.-authorized logistics mission that
Rest of Membership, Total Percent: 19.48
supports the African Union Mission in Somalia. (The
Source: U.N. document, A/73/350/Add.1, December 24, 2018.
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
through PKO.)
personnel for each U.N. mission. Peacekeepers are paid by
In the FY2021 SFOPS act, Congress appropriated $1.45
their own governments, which are reimbursed by the United
billion in CIPA funding (Figure 1). This represents a 26%
Nations at a standard rate determined by the Assembly
increase over President Trump’s FY2021 request of $1.07
(about $1,428 per soldier per month).The U.N.

United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping
billion, and a 4.6% decrease from the enacted FY2020 level
arrears remain. As of February 2021, U.S. arrears
of $1.52 billion.
accumulated prior to 2001 for both open and closed
peacekeeping operations total about $328 million. (Most of
Figure 1. CIPA Account Funding, FY2016-Present
these are from the gap between the 25% U.S. cap and the
(Actual funding levels unless otherwise indicated)
U.N. assessment pre-2001, while others are the result of
congressional policy holds. (The State Department has no
U.S. $ in billions
plans to repay these arrears.) As previously noted, the
United States has also accumulated about $920 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 operations.
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 U.N. peacekeeping funding unless the
which are funded through the U.N. regular budget in the CIO
Secretary of State certifies that the United Nations is
account. The executive branch requests funding for UNSOS through
implementing effective policies and procedures to prevent
U.N. employees and peacekeeping troops from human
CIPA, but Congress usual y funds the mission through PKO.
trafficking or acts of illegal exploitation or other violations
U.S. funding may fluctuate annually depending on several
of human rights. Since FY2017, SFOPS bills have also
factors, including discrepancies between the peacekeeping
prohibited assistance to any unit of the security forces of a
assessment and the enacted U.S. cap, changes to the scale
foreign country if there is credible information that such
of assessments, timing of U.N. billing processes,
unit has engaged in SEA until the Secretary of State
application of peacekeeping credits, and changes to
certifies the country is taking steps to hold the unit
individual operations. In recent years, the timing of State
accountable. The Department of State Authorities Act,
Department reports to Congress (which are required by
FY2017 (P.L. 114-323) also requires the Department to
SFOPS acts) have delayed some U.S. payments.
report to Congress on U.N. efforts to hold perpetrators
accountable for SEA prior to renewing or establishing a
Selected Policy Issues
Funding and Growth of U.N. Peacekeeping
U.N. Peacekeeping Financial Situation
Associated with debates over the level and extent of
Some experts have expressed concern regarding the
peacekeeping funding is the broader issue of the changing
financial status of U.N. peacekeeping operations. In a
nature of U.N. peacekeeping. The concept of peacekeeping
March 2019 report to the General Assembly, U.N.
has evolved since the first mission was established in 1948.
Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres noted an increase
“Traditional” peacekeeping involves implementing cease-
in the number of peacekeeping missions that are frequently
fire or peace agreements; however, in recent years, the
cash constrained. Causes include member state payment
Security Council has increasingly authorized operations in
patterns and arrears, and “structural weaknesses” in
complex and insecure environments where there is little
peacekeeping budget methodologies, including inefficient
peace to keep and no clear outcome. Peacekeepers may be
payment schedules and borrowing and funding restrictions.
required to protect civilians, disarm violent groups, monitor
Such issues have led to cash shortages, delays in
human rights violations, or assist in delivering humanitarian
reimbursements to some troop contributing countries, and
assistance. Such activities can place additional financial
increased risks to “not only the functioning of its [U.N.]
demands on U.N. members. Some experts argue that
peacekeeping operations but also the people who serve in
current peacekeeping funding cannot effectively support the
difficult environments” (U.N. document A/73/809). To help
some of the broad mandates authorized by the Council.
address these issues, in July 2019 the Assembly approved
the management of cash balances of all active peacekeeping
The United States and Peacekeeping Arrears
operations in pool (while maintaining the balances in
In the mid-1990s, the United States accumulated significant
separate funds for each mission), and requested the SG
arrears to U.N. peacekeeping operations accounts and the
issue assessment letters for the full budget period approved
U.N. regular budget. Many U.S. policymakers were
by the Assembly (Assembly resolution 73/307). The United
concerned that the United States could lose its vote in the
States maintains that it “continue[s] to support overall
General Assembly unless it made substantial payments on
improvements to the [peacekeeping] budget methodology.”
its outstanding dues. In 1999, Congress and the
In October 2020, the United Nations reported that the
Administration negotiated what is known as the “Helms-
aforementioned changes had helped to alleviate some
Biden Agreement,” which established conditions under
financial strain; however, the organization continues to
which some U.S. arrears, including peacekeeping arrears,
experience an “deepening liquidity crisis.”
were paid. Since the enactment of Helms-Biden, some U.S.

United Nations Issues: U.S. Funding of U.N. Peacekeeping

Luisa Blanchfield, Specialist in International Relations

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