Funding Trends

Level of contributions

Funding TrendsIn 2015, a total of US$125.8 million in extrabudgetary contributions was raised, representing an increase of 1.7 per cent compared to the previous year (US$123.7 million). While this is a welcome improvement, some of the contributions are for new and/or additional activities, such as the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, and for the new field presences in Burundi, Honduras and Ukraine, instead of for OHCHR’s ongoing programme of work as requested in the OHCHR Management Plan 2014-2017.

Additional income, including interest and miscellaneous income, brought the total available income in 2015 to US$126.5 million. With expenditures amounting to US$128.7 million in 2015, OHCHR had a shortfall of US$2.8 million; the sixth consecutive year that actual income was lower than expenditures. Nevertheless, as has been the case since 2010, the situation was offset with the surplus reserves that were built up during 2005-2009 when the Office was in a period of growth and received more funds than it spent. After six consecutive years of drawing on reserves to cover funding gaps, those reserves are approaching the minimum required operating level and will soon be insufficient to allow the Office to spend more than it receives in annual contributions.

OHCHR’s ongoing funding challenges were a major factor in its decision to engage in a comprehensive review of its priorities and budget in 2014 in order to address the increasing demands it is facing in light of its limited resources. OHCHR must therefore redouble its efforts to secure additional revenue from voluntary contributions while strongly advocating for an increase of the regular budget to fully cover its existing mandated activities that are being subsidized by extrabudgetary resources.


Number of donors

In 2015, 62 Member States made contributions to OHCHR, compared to 65 in 2014 and 70 in 2013 (68 in 2012). In total, 71 institutional donors were registered, compared to 74 in 2014 and 78 in 2013 (74 in 2012). One government pledged funds for the first time and seven others renewed their support after at least one year of financial inactivity.

Another 11 Member States left the list of donors, despite the High Commissioner’s repeated appeals to broaden the donor base of the Office.

It is crucial for the Office to attract support from new Member States while also maintaining that of existing donors. Over the last three years, only 50 Member States provided an annual contribution and 35 others contributed at least once in the same three-year period.

Of the 62 Member States that contributed in 2015, 24 were members of the United Nations Western and Others Group (WEOG), 19 were from the Asian Group, nine were from the Eastern European Group, seven were from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and three were from the African Group.

Donor base to OHCHR in 2010-2014, broken down by regional group


Regular budget versus voluntary contributions

Overall, 46 per cent of OHCHR’s funding came from the United Nations regular budget (compared with 46 per cent in 2014, 44 per cent in 2013 and 42.5 per cent in 2012) and 54 per cent came from voluntary contributions (compared with 54 per cent in 2014, 56 per cent in 2013 and 57.5 per cent in 2012). The increase in the share of United Nations regular budget received by OHCHR over the past years results from the additional resources allocated to cover the Treaty Body Strengthening Process and the additional mandates (including Commissions of Inquiry) established by the Human Rights Council.


While the overall funding allocated to OHCHR slightly increased by 1.7 per cent in 2015, the proportion of unearmarked funding in 2015 decreased to 37 per cent of the total income received (down from 47 per cent in 2014 and 54 per cent in 2013). The earmarked contributions increased by almost US$14 million (from US$65 million to US$78.7 million), as a result of efforts to attract more local funding for field activities and due to the decision of some donors to earmark contributions that were initially unearmarked. It also received funding from budget lines other than those that are specific for human rights (such as humanitarian and development budget lines).

OHCHR requires flexibility and autonomy in allocating resources and therefore seeks unearmarked funds from donors. OHCHR continues to use every appropriate opportunity to persuade donors to contribute more unearmarked funding. This resulted in 44 donors providing at least part of their support free of earmarking.

Earmarked vs unearmarked funding 2002-2014


Predictability and sustainability are essential to OHCHR’s capacity to plan and implement its activities with a minimum of flexibility and efficiency. At the beginning of 2015, however, OHCHR could only count on US$36.1 million in pledged contributions, of which US$31.7 million was made up of annual payments of multiyear funding agreements. In 2015, OHCHR had this type of agreement with 13 donors, including nine Member States (Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), the European Commission and three foundations (American Jewish World Service, Education Above All and the Ford Foundation). Additionally, not all pledges materialize in paid contributions, compounding the lack of predictability under which OHCHR operates.

In-Kind Contributions

A few Member States, particularly Colombia, Qatar and Senegal, which host OHCHR Offices in their countries, provide in-kind support by covering items such as the rent of premises, utilities and vehicles.

Junior Professional Officers

Some Member States provided OHCHR with additional indirect financial support by contributing to the United Nations Associate Experts Programme, which is administered by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York. As of 31 December 2015, OHCHR had 30 Associate Experts (also known as Junior Professional Officers) who were supported by the following governments: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Switzerland.