Funding Trends

Level of contributions

Funding Trends 

In 2016, for the sixth consecutive year, OHCHR raised more funds than it had in the previous year. A total of US$129.6 million in extrabudgetary contributions was received, representing an increase of 3 per cent compared to the previous year (US$125.8 million).

Additional income, including interest and miscellaneous income, brought the total available income in 2016 to US$130.4 million. With expenditures amounting to US$122 million, OHCHR recorded less expenditure than income for the first time since 2010. This was primarily due to a UN system-wide change in accounting policy following the adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and 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 as the unmet needs are enormous.

In 2016, the final extrabudgetary requirements amounted to US$158.6 million. If OHCHR were to adequately respond to all of the requests it receives, it would require a budget of at least US$250 million every year in voluntary contributions. Consequently, OHCHR launched an Annual Appeal for 2017 for approximately US$253 million.

OHCHR must redouble its efforts to secure additional revenue from voluntary contributions, while also strongly advocating 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 also 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 2016, 66 Member States made contributions to OHCHR, compared to 62 in 2015, 65 in 2014 and 70 in 2013. In total, 82 institutional donors were registered, compared to 71 in 2015, 74 in 2014 and 78 in 2013. Eleven governments renewed their support after at least one year of financial inactivity. Another eight Member States left the list of donors, despite the High Commissioner’s repeated appeals to broaden OHCHR’s donor base.

It is crucial for the Office to attract support from new Member States while also maintaining that of existing donors. Over the last four years, only 47 Member States provided an annual contribution and 41 others contributed at least once in the same four-year period.

Of the 66 Member States that contributed in 2016, 24 were members of the United Nations Western and Others Group, 16 were from the Asian Group, 13 were from the Eastern European Group, eight were from the Latin American and Caribbean Group and five were from the African Group.

Donor base to OHCHR broken down by regional group

Regular budget versus voluntary contributions

Overall, 45 per cent of OHCHR’s funding came from the United Nations regular budget (compared with 46 per cent in 2015 and 2014, 44 per cent in 2013 and 42.5 per cent in 2012) and 55 per cent came from voluntary contributions (compared with 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 OHCHR activities was due to the additional resources allocated to cover the Treaty Body Strengthening Process and the additional mandates, including commissions of inquiry, established by the Human Rights Council.


While the overall funding allocated to OHCHR slightly increased by 3 per cent in 2016, the proportion of unearmarked funding marginally increased in 2016 to 38 per cent of the total income received after sharply slipping to 37 per cent in 2015 (down from 47 per cent in 2014 and 54 per cent in 2013). This is a result of efforts to attract more local funding for field activities and due to the decision of some donors to earmark contributions that were initially unearmarked. The Office also received funding from budget lines other than those that are specific for human rights (such as humanitarian and development budget lines).

The net decline in the level of contributions received without earmarking over the last three years is increasingly limiting the Office’s capacity to apply resources where they are most urgently required. OHCHR requires flexibility and autonomy in allocating resources and therefore primarily seeks unearmarked funds from donors. OHCHR continues to use every appropriate opportunity to persuade donors to contribute more unearmarked funding. In 2016, 47 donors provided at least part of their support free of earmarking.

Earmarked vs unearmarked funding 


Predictability and sustainability are essential to OHCHR’s capacity to plan and implement its activities with a minimum of flexibility and efficiency. On 1 January 2016, however, OHCHR could only count on US$21.2 million in pledged contributions, of which US$16.2 million represented annual payments of multiyear funding agreements. In 2016, OHCHR had this type of agreement with 10 donors, including nine Member States (Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America), the European Commission and three institutional donors (the American Jewish World Service, the Ford 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, OHCHR had 23 Associate Experts (also known as Junior Professional Officers) who were supported by the Governments of Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, 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, OHCHR had 17 UNVs who were fully funded by the Governments of Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland.