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Funding Trends

Level of contributions

While voluntary contributions slipped from US$120 million in 2008 to US$109.4 million in 2010, they went up again to US$121.2 million in 2013 after stagnating at $111.1 million in 2011 and 2012. Additional income, including interest and miscellaneous income, brought the total available income in 2013 to US$122.2 million. With expenditures amounting to US$127.6 million in 2013, OHCHR had a shortfall of US$5.4 million; the fourth year in a row that actual income was lower than expenditures. However, compared with 2012 when the shortfall amounted to US$25.9 million, the 2013 funding gap was very small. Nevertheless, as has been the case since 2010, the situation was offset with the surplus balance accumulated in previous years.

Current funding challenges have been a major component in OHCHR’s decision to engage in a conscious exercise to review its priorities and budget from 2013 onwards in order to address the ever increasing demands placed on the Office with its limited resources. At the same time OHCHR decided to invest in enhanced external outreach, performance management and fundraising. While 2013 has seen an increase in funding, it is still too soon to say whether this is sustainable funding as a result of the investments made to date. All efforts continue to be made to adapt the work of OHCHR to the current economic environment, while simultaneously, more demands and new mandates are imposed on the Office by the international community.

Number of donors

After a slight decrease in the number of donors contributing to OHCHR in 2012, efforts made to expand the donor base resulted in a small increase in the total number of contributors to the Office in 2013. OHCHR received financial support from 78 institutional donors in 2013 (including 71 Member States) compared with 74 donors in 2012 (including 68 Member States).

Regular budget versus voluntary contributions

Overall, 44 per cent of OHCHR’s funding came from the United Nations regular budget (compared with 42.5 per cent in 2012) and 56 per cent came from voluntary contributions (compared with 57.5 per cent in 2012). The slight increase in regular budget funding reflects additional resources which were allocated to cover the cost of part of the new activities mandated by the Human Rights Council in 2013.


While the overall funding to OHCHR increased by some US$10 million in 2013, the proportion of funding free of earmarking increased marginally to 54 per cent of all contributions, or US$65.5 million, up from 53 per cent or US$58.5 million in 2012.

The Office strongly encourages unearmarked funding as this provides greater flexibility when planning activities and responding to evolving needs and situations. A high level of unearmarked funding also underlines OHCHR’s independence and ensures that programmes are developed and implemented in line with priorities established by the High Commissioner, in accordance with her mandate. While unearmarked funding is preferred, it is recognized that a certain amount of earmarking is unavoidable. Member States, for instance, often follow specific budget lines, such as development or humanitarian assistance, and funding must be allocated accordingly. Similarly, private sector entities may have specific areas of interest in which they would like to cooperate with the Office.

Earmarking may be restricted to a particular activity or programme or more loosely directed, for example, to OHCHR’s work in the field. Earmarked funding is, however, directed towards activities or programmes which form part of the Office’s planning, i.e., that are included in the OHCHR Management Plan.


Predictability of funding was reinforced by the negotiation of new multiyear funding arrangements with Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Ford Foundation. In 2013, OHCHR had multiyear funding arrangements in place with 10 donors, including eight Member States (Belgium, Canada, 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 and Qatar who host OHCHR offices in their countries, provide some support to OHCHR field presence, by covering items such as rent of premises, utilities, vehicles etc.

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 2013, OHCHR had 27 associate experts (also known as Junior Professional Officers) supported by the following Governments: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.