Trump may trigger change in UN funding

Published: 6th Jan 2017   6:00 am Updated: 6th Jan 2017   12:11 pm

After the recent Israel vote in the United Nations (UN), president-elect of the United States of America (USA) Donald Trump, in a series of tweets, criticised the UN for its functioning. In one tweet he said, “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”  In another tweet he said, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th”. This hints at a possible shake up at the UN after Trump assumes charge as President since the organisation is heavily dependent on the US for its finances. A very vocal section in the country also believes that it should reduce its funding to the UN. But how much do various countries contribute to the UN regular Budget?

The UN is currently made up of 193 member states. Article 17 of the UN Charter specifies that the UN General Assembly will determine the basis for payment of the expenses of the organisation. The expenses shall be borne by the members as decided by the General Assembly.

Basis for contribution
Each member state of the UN is obligated to contribute to the UN. The contribution is calculated on the basis of scale of assessments. The Committee on Contributions is entrusted with the job of deciding the quantum of contribution. To determine the scale of assessments, the Committee on Contributions uses estimates of each member state’s gross national product (GNP) and a number of adjustments, including data for external debt and for low per capita incomes. The assessment thus takes into account the country’s share of the global GNP with discounts given for low per-capita income and the country’s external debt. This is with respect to the regular Budget of the UN. Similar assessments are done for other organisations of the UN, including the peacekeeping operations. For deciding contribution to the peacekeeping operations, adjustments are made for average per capita GNP compared with global average GNP.

The General Assembly has directed that percentage shares range from a minimum of 0.001% to a maximum of 22%, and a maximum of 0.01% for those nations designated as ‘least developed countries’. The scale of assessments is normally reviewed every three years. The current time period of assessments is for the years 2016-2018.

Biggest contributors
The US contributes the highest with a share of 22%. Its GNP is approximately 27% of the total GNP of all the member countries of the UN and thus its highest share of contribution is justified.

Japan contributes the second highest with 9.68%, followed by China (7.921%), Germany (6.389%), France (4.859%) and the UK (4.463%) in the top five. Brazil contributes about 3.823% and is 6th on this list. (Fig 1)

Eighteen countries contribute more than 1% each to the UN regular Budget. On the other hand, 135 countries contribute less than 0.1% each. These include India’s neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Of the 193 member states, the top 20 countries contribute 83.78% while the other 173 countries contribute 16.22% only. (Fig 2). The top 10 contributors account for 68.89% of the total contributions. The total regular UN Budget for 2016-17 is $ 5.6 billion.

Illustration: Telangana Today

India’s contribution
According to the assessment made for the years 2016-18, India has to contribute 0.737% to the Budget. This puts India in the 24th place on the list of highest contributors. Based on the assessment by the contributions committee, India’s contribution was fixed at 0.534% for 2009-12 and 0.666% for 2013-2015.

In 2012-13, this contribution stood at $16.97 million while in 2013-14, it was $17.19 million and in 2014-15 at $18.07 million. India’s actual share was $19.82 million in 2014-15, but was given a credit of $1.74 million for the income tax exemption extended by India for the UN staff working in India. (Fig 3)

India also contributed to other UN agencies, including the (UN Development Programme), Unicef and UNEP (UN Environment Programme). Its contribution to UN peacekeeping operations was fixed at 0.1068% for the period 2009-12, 0.1332% for 2013-15 and at 0.1474% for the period 2016-18.

The country’s total contribution to the UN was Rs 138 crore in 2013-14, Rs 157 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 244 crore in 2015-16. Among the BRICS nations, India’s contribution is more than only South Africa. Brazil, Russia and China contribute more than India.

(The author is founder of public information portal Factly  ( and an RTI campaigner)