Funding Trends

Level of contributions

Funding Trends 

In 2017, for the seventh consecutive year, UN Human Rights raised more funds than it had in the previous year. A total of US$142.7 million in extrabudgetary contributions was received, representing an increase of 10 per cent compared to the previous year (US$129.6 million).

Additional income, including interest and miscellaneous income, brought the total available income in 2017 to US$142.8 million. With expenditures amounting to US$136.2 million, UN Human Rights recorded less expenditure than income for the second time since 2010, mainly as a result of a concerted effort undertaken by the Office to control expenditures through systematic monitoring during the year. There is no room for complacency, however, as the unmet needs are enormous.

Total extrabudgetary requirements for 2017 amounted to US$252.9 million. These were funds that UN Human Rights would have needed in addition to its regular budget allocation if it was to adequately respond to all of the requests that it had received for the year.

UN Human Rights must redouble its efforts to secure additional revenue from voluntary contributions. It also needs to strongly advocate for an increase of the regular budget to fully cover its existing mandated activities that are being subsidized by extrabudgetary resources. These contributions need to be as flexible as possible and provided in multi-year agreements in order to help increase predictability and sustainability in planning. They would need to be paid as early as possible in the year to help mitigate cash flow problems during the first two quarters of the year. 

Number of donors

In 2017, 63 Member States made contributions to UN Human Rights, compared to 66 in 2016, 62 in 2015 and 65 in 2014. In total, 82 institutional donors were registered, compared to 82 in 2016, 71 in 2015 and 74 in 2014. Ten governments renewed their support after at least one year of financial inactivity. Another 13 Member States left the list of donors, despite the High Commissioner’s repeated appeals to broaden the Office’s donor base.

It is crucial for the Office to attract support from new Member States while simultaneously maintaining the support of existing donors. Over the last four years, only 48 Member States provided an annual contribution and 36 others contributed at least once in the same four-year period.


Of the 63 Member States that contributed in 2017, 25 were members of the United Nations Western and Others Group, 16 were from the Asian Group, 10 were from the Eastern European Group, 10 were from the Latin American and Caribbean Group and two were from the African Group.

Donor base to OHCHR broken down by regional group

Regular budget versus voluntary contributions

Overall, approximately 44 per cent of the funding for UN Human Rights came from the United Nations regular budget (compared with 45 per cent in 2016 and 46 per cent in 2015 and 2014, 44 per cent in 2013 and 42.5 per cent in 2012) and 56 per cent came from voluntary contributions (compared with 55 per cent in 2016, 54 per cent in 2015 and 2014, 56 per cent in 2013 and 57.5 per cent in 2012). Over the past few years, the increase in the share of the United Nations regular budget for UN Human Rights activities was due to the additional resources that were allocated to cover the Treaty Body Strengthening Process and in relation to additional mandates, including commissions of inquiry, that were established by the Human Rights Council.


Although the overall funding allocated to UN Human Rights increased by 10 per cent in 2017, this consisted of both earmarked and unearmarked contributions. Some of the increase in earmarking can be attributed to the receipt of more local funding for field activities and contributions from nontraditional budget lines that can only be accessed as earmarked funds (such as humanitarian and development budget lines). Other contributions that were previously unearmarked have been transformed into more circumscribed funding.

Nonetheless, in 2017, UN Human Rights received US$61.4 million in unearmarked funds (the second highest amount received) from 50 donors, thereby reversing a downward trend that had been observed since 2014 (43 per cent in 2017 compared with 38 per cent in 2016, 37 per cent in 2015, down from 47 per cent in 2014 and 54 per cent in 2013).

Overall, any decline in the level of contributions received without earmarking limits the Office’s capacity to apply resources where they are most urgently required. UN Human Rights requires flexibility and autonomy in allocating resources and therefore primarily seeks unearmarked funds from donors. UN Human Rights continues to use every appropriate opportunity to persuade donors to contribute more unearmarked funding.

Earmarked vs unearmarked funding 


Predictability and sustainability are essential to the Office’s capacity to plan and implement its activities with a minimum of flexibility and efficiency. On 1 January 2017, however, UN Human Rights could only count on US$21.4 million in pledged contributions, of which US$15.4 million represented annual payments of multi-year funding agreements. In 2017, UN Human Rights had this type of agreement with 15 donors, including 11 Member States (Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), the European Commission and three institutional donors (including the MacArthur Foundation and Microsoft).

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, UN Human Rights had 36 Associate Experts (also known as Junior Professional Officers) who were supported by the Governments of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.

United Nations Volunteers

In addition, OHCHR benefited from indirect financial support through the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme, which is administered by UNDP. As of 31 December, UN Human Rights had 17 UNVs who were fully funded by the Governments of Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.