The funding of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; an unfinished jigsaw

The Report provides the reader with an accessible guide to the intricacies and implications of recent UNODC funding, highlighting its shortcomings and political implications, and proposing pathways towards increasing its efficiency and transparency.


This Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme report aims to provide a broad picture of the UNODC funding situation, including an outline of the budget process, sources of funding and spending patterns. It discusses some of the negative consequences resulting from the current funding dynamic and within that context draws some conclusions.

It seems clear that important changes in not only the funding process, but also in donor states’ perceptions and expectations of the Office (and changes in attitude of the UNODC itself), would be necessary to improve its efficiency and allow the Office to move closer to fulfilling its potential. For example:

  1. An increase in Regular budget contributions, particularly in light of the expanding UNODC mandate concerning crime and terrorism, would help stabilise infrastructure.
  2. While donors are understandably keen to ensure value for money and address national priorities, a move away from current levels of earmarking and micro-management would allow the Office to pursue a more coherent and holistic strategy. Attainment of this goal could be assisted by moves to encourage “Objective driven,” as opposed to thematic, programme or regionally earmarked, contributions, and assurances from the Executive Director that funds will be directed at identified need, as opposed to political priorities.
  3. An increased willingness of donors to invest in developing the Office as a global centre of objective expertise would help it develop its full potential as a clearing house for best practice and international monitoring. It is likely that such investment would be more likely if the UNODC extended its engagement with donors beyond securing financial contributions and increased cooperation and communication at all programme stages.
  4. A longer budget cycle would help ensure predictability of budget for programmes and permit longer term planning.
  5. A more streamlined budget process would allow the UNODC to respond more rapidly to emerging or identifiable drug problems.


Meaningful engagement with any of these suggestions would of course require a significant change in the mindset of donor nations and the UNODC leadership. A general reluctance to trust the Office to direct sizeable contributions as it sees fi t is perhaps understandable in light of previous mismanagement. While this is the case, the forthcoming new UNODC Strategy could offer a good opportunity for a re-evaluation of funding structures and the introduction of longer term “Objective driven” contributions.