Funding Trends

Level of contributions

In 2014, a total of US$123.7 million was raised in extrabudgetary contributions, representing an increase of 2 per cent compared to the previous year (US$121.2 million). While a significant improvement, some of these are contributions for new and/or additional activities such as Gender, Human Rights Up Front, Human Rights Indicators, as well as new field presences in Burundi, Honduras and Ukraine rather than the regular work included in the OHCHR Management Plan 2014-2017, as well as one-time, non-recurring contributions.

Additional income, including interest and miscellaneous income, brought the total available income in 2014 to US$125.8 million. With expenditures amounting to US$140.5 million in 2014, OHCHR had a shortfall of US$14.7 million; the fifth year in a row that actual income was lower than expenditures. Nevertheless, as has been the case since 2010, the situation was offset with the surplus balance accumulated in previous years. This was made possible thanks to reserves built up during 2005-2009 when the Office was in a period of growth and received more funds than it spent. After five consecutive years of drawing down the reserves to cover funding gaps, these reserves are approaching the minimum required operating level and soon will not be sufficient to allow the Office to spend more than it receives in annual contributions.

Current funding challenges have been a major component in OHCHR’s decision to engage in a review of its priorities and budget from 2014 onwards in order to address the increasing demands it is facing in light of its limited resources. OHCHR must therefore redouble its focus on increasing revenues from voluntary contributions while continuing to press for an increase of the regular budget to fully cover all of the existing mandated activities that are still subsidized from extrabudgetary resources.

Number of donors

In 2014, 66 Member States made contributions to OHCHR, compared to 71 in 2013 (68 in 2012). In total, 74 institutional donors were registered, compared to 78 in 2013 (74 in 2012). Two governments pledged funds for the first time, whereas eight renewed their support after at least one inactive year. Another 15 Member States left the list of donors despite the High Commissioner’s repeated appeals to broaden the donor base and support the work of the Office.

Attracting support from new Member States while maintaining that of existing donors is crucial for the Office. Over the last three years, only 49 Member States have provided a contribution every year, while 37 others contributed at least once in the same three-year period.

Of the 66 Member States that contributed in 2014, 26 were members of the United Nations Western and Other Group (WEOG), 18 were from the Asian Group, 11 were from the Eastern European Group, 8 were from the Latin America and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and 3 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 44 per cent in 2013 and 42.5 per cent in 2012) and 54 per cent came from voluntary contributions (compared with 56 per cent in 2013 and 57.5 per cent in 2012). The increase in regular budget funding reflects additional resources which were allocated to cover the first year of the Treaty Body Strengthening process and the cost of part of the new activities mandated by the Human Rights Council in 2014.


While the overall funding to OHCHR slightly increased by 2 per cent in 2014, the proportion of funding free of earmarking in 2014 decreased to 47 per cent (down from 54 per cent in 2013 and 53 per cent in 2012) of total income received. The earmarked contributions have increased by almost US$10 million (from US$55.7 million to US$65million). The Office has received more earmarked contributions as a result of efforts to attract more local funding for field activities; to fund specific, new activities; and to receive funding from budget lines other than those 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, resulting in 49 donors providing at least part of their support free of earmarking.

Earmarked vs unearmarked funding 2002-2014


Predictability and sustainability are of utmost importance for OHCHR to be able to plan and implement its activities with a minimum of flexibility and efficiency. However, at the very beginning of 2014, OHCHR could only count on some $23.8 million in pledged contributions, of which $21.4 million were made of instalments pertaining to 2014 of multiyear funding arrangements. In 2014, OHCHR had such arrangements in place with 12 donors, including 10 Member States (Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and two foundations (Education Above All and Ford Foundation).

In-Kind Contributions

A few Member States, in particular Colombia, Qatar and Senegal which host OHCHR offices in their countries, provide some support to OHCHR field presences by covering items such as rent of premises, utilities and vehicles.

Junior Professional Officers

Some Member States also 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 2014, OHCHR had 22 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.