What would US cuts to the UN look like?

By John McArthur and Krista Rasmussen Monday, May 1, 2017

President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal called for major U.S. cuts to United Nations programs. Although many people think of “the U.N.” as a single monolithic entity, it is actually a broad system comprised of more than 30 organizations, each with its own mandate, ranging from peacekeeping to civil aviation coordination to child health and humanitarian food relief. (A full list of U.N. organizations is listed in Table 1 at bottom.)

The U.S. remains the largest funder of the U.N. system as a whole, but its support is not spread evenly across all the organizations. To consider the implications of potential changes in U.S. funding, two complementary questions need to be assessed:

  • First, from a U.S. budget perspective, how big are American contributions to each U.N. organization?
  • Second, from the perspective of each U.N. organization, how important are U.S. contributions?

We considered these questions by examining U.N. system budget data for 2014, the most recent year with full information available. For simplicity, we define U.S. “allocations” as the sum of both voluntary and assessed contributions, the latter being those that are required through membership in each organization.

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