The Un Facts

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[image, unknown] THE UN - THE FACTS
Photo: Howard Davies / Exile Images

UN Keeping the peace

Since 1945 the UN has launched 59 peacekeeping missions, of which 16 were still active in July 2004.

• Troops from 130 nations have been used, with Canada and Fiji involved in almost all of them.6

• In July 2004 there were 58,741 military and civilian police serving on such missions. Outstanding contributions for peacekeeping stood at $2.48 billion.

• Although the Permanent Five members of the Security Council pay higher contributions for peacekeeping, their troops are now little used – in part because they are seen as threatening, in part because other countries’ troops are cheaper.

• Countries are reimbursed by the UN at the rate of $1,000 per solider per month, which in some countries makes a significant contribution to military budgets. This can cause problems – as in Fiji when there was a military coup in 1987.

Ongoing UN Peacekeeping missions

UN Who belongs

Discounting current disputes, the only independent ‘countries’ not now in UN membership are the Vatican City and Taiwan. Decolonization in the 1960s and the collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989 led to a rapid growth in UN membership. The newest members, Switzerland and Timor-Leste (East Timor), joined in 2002.

Member states (1)

UN Who pays – or not

The US has always been by far the largest single contributor to the UN budget. Until recently it resisted any attempt to reduce its contributions – and thereby its influence. However, the US also fails to pay its dues. In June 2004 the US owed the UN just over $1 billion – almost half the total $2.5 billion owed to the UN by its members.5

• The UN ‘regular’ budget for 2004 was $1.5 billion, of which the US contribution was assessed at $363 million. In theory, any member state that owes more than its two previous years’ assessments cannot vote in the General Assembly. In practice, the US has rejected ‘compulsory’ assessments since 1964 – no member has ever been disciplined for failing to pay its dues.

• Russia, which in 1993 was the fourth largest contributor to the regular budget, has since pleaded bankruptcy and no longer appears among the top 15 contributors.

No country can pay less than 0.01% of the regular budget; the majority of UN members, which are regarded as ‘poor’, pay at this minimum level.

Percentage share of UN regular budget 2004 (5)

Top 10 contributors to UN peacekeeping forces (July 2004) (6) UN The people

The UN Secretariat worldwide employs some 15,000 people from 170 different countries – less than the 18,000 employed by the Foreign Office in Britain, and considerably less than the 23,000 who work in the Pentagon in Washington DC.7

• The UN system as a whole – including related programmes and specialized agencies like the World Bank and IMF – employs some 61,000 people in total. That’s similar to a medium-sized commercial corporation – 67,000 people work for the Mondragón Co-operative Corporation in Spain, for example.8

• Salaries for ‘professional’ staff are determined by the ‘Noblemaire Principle’ – named after the chair of a committee of the League of Nations – and relate to the highest-paying national civil service. Towards the top, the base salary of an Under Secretary-General is currently just over $113,000 net; at the bottom, the base salary is just under $32,000. Locally recruited staff are paid at local rates.1

UN How much it costs

The $11.9 billion spent by the UN system in 2001 for all its worldwide responsibilities was equivalent to just 15% of total government revenues in Australia or 13% of the amount spent on military equipment alone by members of NATO.2

• Between 1986 and 2001 the costs of UN peacekeeping rose more than tenfold. Even so, the $2.7 billion spent on peacekeeping in 2001 was not much more than the annual budget of the New York City Police Department.2

• Some UN agencies, most notably UNICEF, derive their income from a number of different sources. In 2003 contributions to UNICEF totalled $1.7 billion, of which $1.1 billion came from governments and the remaining $600 million from elsewhere, including its own fundraising and other UN agencies.3

UN expenditure, 1986 and 2001 ($ millions) (4)

3 Annual Report 2003, UNICEF.
4 Klaus Hufner, Total UN System Expenditures: 1986-2004,
7 and
8 and NI 368, June 2004.

With thanks to Christine Berry for research assistance.

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