Geneva Policy Outlook
17 June 2024

Geneva Graduate Institute Releases Comprehensive Report on Financing International Organisations: A 20-Year Analysis (2000-2020)

The Geneva Graduate Institute, with the generous support of the Republic and State of Geneva, announces the release of its latest report, Paying for Multilateralism: Taking Stock on the Financing of International Organisations in Geneva, 2000-2020. This groundbreaking study, authored by Livio Silva-Muller and Remo Gassmann and part of the Geneva Policy Outlook, provides an in-depth analysis of funding trends for international organisations based in Geneva over two decades and stands as a significant contribution to the study of international organisations, as well as to discussions on the adaptation of International Geneva to  a rapidly changing world. 

This report builds on a new dataset comprising over 30,000 financial contributions from over 1,000 donors between 2000 and 2020, employing state-of-the-art methods to analyse the funding sources of global governance institutions. The study concentrates on a subset of 16 organisations, belonging to International Geneva's broader ecosystem, which together received a total of $253 billion from 2000 to 2020.

Key Findings:

  • Steady increase in contributions: The report reveals a significant growth in annual contributions to international organisations in Geneva, rising from $4.2 billion in 2002 to $23.6 billion in 2020. Over the 20-year period, total contributions amounted to $253.7 billion.
  • Dominance of public funding: Public donors accounted for 90.1% of all contributions. Despite a notable increase in private contributions from 4.1% in 2007 to a peak of 12.7% in 2017, the majority of funding continues to come  from public sources.
  • Top donors: The overwhelming majority of funds hail from Western countries, with G7 and EU contributing more than 90%. The United States emerged as the largest contributor, responsible for 26.3% of total contributions. The Gates Foundation is the only private entity among the top 15 donors.
  • Sector-specific funding: Health and humanitarian sectors received the highest contributions, with the Global Fund, UNHCR, and WHO being the top recipients. The health sector alone attracted $112.5 billion, nearly half of the total contributions over the study period, highlighting the critical role of these sectors in International Geneva.

Amid the backdrop of the UN system’s current funding crises, a palpable sense of operational uncertainty looms over International Geneva. The enduring financial challenges encountered by international organisations serve as a reminder of the mounting strain on the multilateral system. In her introduction, Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Geneva Graduate Institute, stresses that “at a time where multilateralism is being questioned and is under financial stress, it is important to reaffirm two fundamentals: The indispensable role of multilateralism as we face so many acute and urgent global challenges that we need to approach together, as an international community; and the importance of financing for the sustained role and impact of global governance”. 

The predominance of Western funding sources in Geneva leaves it open to the criticism that it is not as global as it claims to be. Achim Wennmann, Director for Strategic Partnerships at the Geneva Graduate Institute, underlines in his commentary that “these figures reveal a certain vulnerability of the financing of Geneva-based international organisations when considering a political outlook in which changing governments within the top donors might change the way they relate to international cooperation and to supporting issues such as health diplomacy or humanitarian assistance”.

The study highlights the critical need for a regionally balanced and multi-stakeholder governance system by diversifying sources of funding among both states and various actors. The next question to explore will be which cross-sector mechanisms and collaborative approaches can enhance funding diversification for organisations addressing global challenges and build strong foundations for the future of global governance.


Read the Report 


For media queries, please contact: Léna Rieder-Menge, Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations:  

A public launch event of the study will take place on Wednesday 19 June from 12:30 to 13:30. For more information and to register, see below.