The work of the UN is financed by member countries through three budgets: the regular budget, the peacekeeping budget and ‘voluntary funding’. Each year, the UN spends about 40 billion US dollars, more than 2000 times its first budget in 1946.
Payments towards the regular budget are compulsory for all nations, although these differ widely and depend on the country’s capacity to pay. For example, in 2015, the UK was assessed at 5.18% of the UN’s annual budget, whereas Liberia was assessed at 0.001%. New Zealand’s contribution to the budget for 2015 was 0.253% whereas the US’ was assessed at 22%.
Payments towards the peacekeeping budget are not required for the poorest nations; to make up for this, the five permanent members of the Security Council make extra payments.
If a member state becomes two years behind with these compulsory dues, it loses its vote in the General Assembly. Many states routinely make late payments, making it very hard for the UN to carry out its work.
‘Voluntary funding’ is used to finance the UN’s development and humanitarian programmes, such as the UN Children’s Fund. Countries may choose which, if any, of these programmes they wish to fund.