OHCHR’s Funding and Budget


The global funding needs of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are covered by the United Nations regular budget at a rate of approximately 40 per cent. The remainder is covered by voluntary contributions from Member States and other donors.

The UN regular budget, approved by the General Assembly every two years, is funded by “assessed contributions” from each Member State that are determined according to a formula that takes into account the size and strength of their respective national economies. 

The UN regular budget should finance all activities mandated by the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs, including the Human Rights Council (HRC). Human rights is recognized as one of the three pillars of the UN system, the other two being development and peace and security. The Human Rights up Front programme clearly underscores the centrality of human rights to the work of the entire UN Secretariat. And yet, the regular budget only allocates a tiny percentage of the resources to human rights that are extended to the other two pillars. With approximately half of all regular budget resources directed to these three pillars, human rights receives less than eight per cent of those resources. The approved regular budget appropriation for the Office in 2018-2019 is US$201.6 million, just 3.7 per cent of the total UN regular budget.

OHCHR funding overview 2002-2017 

Once again, the final approved 2018-2019 regular budget is a step backwards from the long-standing principle of “zero growth,” as it entails a number of reductions resulting from the General Assembly’s decisions, including across-the-board reductions of between five to 25 per cent of several budget lines. To a large extent, these reductions offset the resources approved for new mandates adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2016 and 2017. The official human rights mandates continue to grow in number and scope, but regular budget resources are not keeping pace. As a result, UN Human Rights continues to rely on voluntary contributions to finance as much as 10 per cent of officially mandated activities that ought to be financed by the regular budget.

In 2017, a total of US$142.8 million was raised in voluntary contributions, representing the highest amount ever received by the Office, compared to US$129.6 million in 2016. This 10 per cent growth was primarily due to a number of countries that substantially increased their contributions. The additional income was a much appreciated investment in human rights and meant that the Office could meet more of the demands it is facing. Nevertheless, the donated amount falls far below the US$252.9 million in extrabudgetary funding that was being sought.

The overall increase of 10 per cent refers to both earmarked and unearmarked contributions. In 2017, earmarked contributions (57 per cent) surpassed unearmarked contributions (43 per cent) for the fourth time since 2008. Yet, unearmarked funds reached the second highest amount received at US$61.4 million. 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. 

Other contributions that were previously unearmarked have been transformed into more circumscribed funding. While additional funding is much appreciated, any increase in earmarking limits the Office’s capacity to allocate resources where they are most urgently required and demands more constant budgetary adjustments over the course of the year.

During the year, approximately 60 per cent of all voluntary funding was used to support work in the field, which receives minimal support from the regular budget. The remainder of the voluntary funding was distributed between other areas of the Office’s work and often supplemented the limited resources available from the regular budget. This enabled the Office to achieve a far greater impact than would otherwise have been possible.

OHCHR Annual Report 

The OHCHR Annual Report presents results achieved under the Office’s six thematic priorities as set out in the OMP 2014-2017. It also provides information about OHCHR management, funding and expenditure. OHCHR Report 2017 was launched on 1 June 2018.

OHCHR Annual Appeal 2019 

The Annual Appeal 2019 was presented to Member States by the High Commissioner on 16 January 2019. It lays out the financial requirements of the Office’s work in 2019. At US$321.5 million, it represents the most ambitious programme of work ever drawn up by the Office. These are the funds that the Office would need in addition to its regular budget allocation if it is to respond to all request of assistance it has received. As in previous appeals, this is a needs-based budget, which demonstrates the full extent of OHCHR’s requirements, albeit limited to what can realistically be implemented within a single year. This Appeal also sets out the core elements of the Organizational Management Plan 2018-2021 (OMP) that was launched in June 2018 and it highlights certain areas of our work such as prevention, one the shifts set out in the OMP, and the spotlight populations.

Latest voluntary contributions to OHCHR in 2020
(as at 31 March, in chronological order from oldest to newest)

Donor Currency Amount in US$
Flag Denmark
DKK 60,000,000
Flag Japan
Flag Canada
CAD 7,500,000
Flag Switzerland
Flag Germany
EUR 623,878.30
Flag Kazakhstan
Flag Algeria
Flag Ireland
EUR 1,865,000
Flag United Kingdom
GBP 700,000
Flag The Bahamas