A Gallimaufry of Money-Raising Devices

  • Anthony McDermott


It was Ted Turner, the chief of CNN, who most dramatically illustrated many of the oddities and contradictions of the ways in which the UN system funds itself. On 18 September 1997, he made an offer of $1 billion over ten years as a contribution towards UN humanitarian programs.1 It is reported to have made Jane Fonda his wife and former film star, cry at the time. It certainly caught UN officials on the hop. A spokesman pointed out that the funds would not offset the $1.5 billion the US owed the UN at the time, because the world body could not accept contributions from the private sector. In fact, Article 17.2 of the Charter does not say that private non-governmental contributions may not be received. More formally, Joseph E. Connor said on 3 October that a trust fund would be set up, as it was the only way the UN could receive voluntary funds from individuals. One was, headed by a former State Department official, to dispense the $100 million a year (just income from yearly interest from Turner’s fortune). One official remarked that Turner’s contributions would make him, were he assessed as a state, the fourth largest contributor after the US, Japan and Germany. James Gustav Speth, UNDP’s Administrator, described Turner’s action more ethereally, as a ‘godsend’. He added:

It is a wake-up call to those governments that, citing domestic priorities, are slashing their development and humanitarian assistance. It may even nudge governments that now owe the United Nations some $2.5 billion (including more than $1 billion owed by the United States) to pay their debts.2


Member State Voluntary Contribution Financial Reform Humanitarian Assistance Defense Expenditure 
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  1. 14.
    Muchkund Dubey, ‘Financing the United Nations’ in the Indian Journal of International Law vol. 35, 1995, pp. 161–4.Google Scholar

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© Anthony McDermott 2000

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  • Anthony McDermott

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