How WHO is funded

How WHO is funded

WHO gets its funding from two main sources: Member States paying their assessed contributions (countries’ membership dues), and voluntary contributions from Member States and other partners. 

Assessed contributions (AC) are a percentage of a country’s gross domestic product (the percentage is agreed by the United Nations General Assembly). Member States approve them every two years at the World Health Assembly. They cover less than 20% of the total budget.

The remainder of WHO’s financing is in the form of voluntary contributions (VC), largely from Member States as well as from other United Nations organizations, intergovernmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, the private sector, and other sources. 

Assessed contributions

Assessed contributions are the dues countries pay in order to be a member of the Organization. The amount each Member State must pay is calculated relative to the country's wealth and population.

Assessed contributions have declined as an overall percentage of the Programme Budget and have, for several years, accounted for less than one quarter of the Organization’s financing. The balance is mobilized through voluntary contributions.

However, assessed contributions remain a key source of financing for the Organization, providing a level of predictability, helping to minimize dependence on a narrow donor base, and allowing resources to be aligned to the Programme Budget.

Voluntary contributions

Voluntary contributions come from Member States (in addition to their assessed contribution) or from other partners. In recent years, voluntary contributions have accounted for more than three quarters of the Organization’s financing.

Voluntary contributions (VC) are further categorized based on the degree of flexibility WHO has in deciding how to spend these funds:

Core voluntary contributions (CVC) 

Core voluntary contributions are fully unconditional (flexible), meaning WHO has full discretion on how these funds should be used to fund the programmatic work of the Organization. These represent 4.1% of all voluntary contributions. WHO thanks all contributors to this account

Note: The amounts represent the revenue received by WHO for the period stated and they might differ from the figures in the WHO Budget Portal, as they represent funds available net of programme support costs.

Thematic and strategic engagement funds

Thematic and strategic engagement funds (partially flexible) aim to meet contributors’ requirements for reporting and accountability while providing a certain degree of flexibility in their allocation. These funds provide more effective and efficient earmarked funding by helping to promote WHO’s stronger focus on results, while delivering on our contributors’ priorities. These represent 7.9% of all voluntary contributions in 2020-2021.

The list of thematic funders keeps growing. Thanks to our pioneers key “thematic funders” Germany, the European Commission and Japan, and others who have joined them since. WHO received US$ 550 million in thematic funds in 2020-2021, up 48% from the previous biennium. These funds give a degree of flexibility that allows WHO to be more effective and efficient in allocating funds, to focus on results for our joint priorities.

Thematic Funding, The WHO Portal Budget

Specified voluntary contributions 

Specified voluntary contributions represent 88% of all voluntary contributions. They are tightly earmarked to specific programmatic areas and/or geographical locations and must be spent within a specified timeframe.

The importance of flexible funding

WHO is extremely grateful to all donors, particularly those who provide flexible funding and thematic and strategic engagement funds as it allows WHO to be agile and strategic in efforts to achieve the Triple Billion targets. Therefore, WHO is calling for an increase in flexible funding arrangements.

WHO’s Member States are currently engaging in an active discussion to find ways to improve WHO’s funding and ensure it is flexible, predictable and sustainable.

Read more about the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing.  

Funding for emergencies

WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE) allows WHO to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks and health emergencies -- often in 24 hours or less. This saves lives and helps prevent unnecessary suffering. A quick response dramatically reduces the costs of controlling outbreaks and emergencies, as well as the wider social and economic impacts. WHO also funds its emergency responses from specific appeals as well as allocations from joint funds such as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Humanitarian Response Plans.

WHO Foundation

The WHO Foundation is an independent grant-making foundation focused on addressing the most pressing global health challenges of today and tomorrow.

Headquartered in Geneva and legally independent from WHO, the Foundation works with individual donors, the general public and corporate partners to support global public health needs, ranging from prevention, mental health and noncommunicable diseases to emergency preparedness, outbreak response and health system strengthening.

one mother and child play in fountain, Russia
WHO/S. Volkov
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