Against the odds of political and financial challenges, UNEP has delivered on much of its mandate. What has the financial situation been over its first five decades? Why?


To answer these questions empirically and over time, the research team at the Center for Governance and Sustainability created a database using official data and compiled it in a more user-friendly format. As you interact with this database, please use the following citation to document its use.

UNEP’s financial resources comprise voluntary contributions from member states. They include regular UN budget allocations, member-state contributions to the Environment Fund, and earmarked contributions. In addition, UNEP’s revenues include contributions to fifteen multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) hosted by UNEP and to the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol on the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

Table 1.2 Main sources of financing for

Assessed contributions are mandatory and calculated according to a particular formula based on the size of a country’s economy. The assessed contributions to UNEP comprise UN regular budget allocations and assessed contributions to the MEAs and the Multilateral Fund/ Other funding elements are based solely on voluntary contributions. 

The Environment Fund is UNEP’s core financial mechanism. It was created in 1972 as one of the main elements of the new organization. In nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation), the Environment Fund has more than doubled in forty years—from $31.5 million in 1979 to $74.2 million in 2020. When adjusted for inflation, however, it decreased by over 40 percent—from almost $112.3 million to $74.2 million. UNEP’s overall income, however, has grown to $501.7 million in 2020. The bulk of it, eighty-five percent, came from extra-budgetary, earmarked resources that respond primarily to donor preferences, are for specific projects, and limit the organization’s initiative.

Our research team created a unique tool that allows tracking UNEP’s finances since its creation. The financial database compiles information from the audited financial statements that UNEP submits to the UN General Assembly in a structured, systematic, and comparative manner. It also relies on information from UNEP’s interactive financial database on country contributions.