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Since the 1990s, the agencies of the United Nations (UN) have increasingly been financed through earmarked contributions from an increasingly diverse set of donors. Since the concept of voluntary contributions was absent from the UN charter owing to the concern that it would undermine multilateralism, current funding trends raise concerns about the functioning of the UN as a multilateral system. Despite this concern there is a limited but growing body of literature that examines the relationship between funding and governance. Taking migration as a case study, this paper uses a newly created data set of earmarked contributions to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) between 2000 and 2016 (n=13,306) to examine thematic and temporal patterns in the contributions of IOM’s main donors. The fragmented nature of migration governance may well be a product of the earmarked nature of its funding, and, without concrete changes in how migration is financed, is likely to remain fragmented. However, this fragmentation can be viewed from two broad perspectives. On the negative side of the ledger, it may be observed that contributions to IOM have largely focused on issues relating to the management of certain aspects of migration that are reflective of the specific interests of its donors lending weight to the argument that the fragmented nature of global migration governance may be a product of the largely earmarked nature of migration financing which has allowed bilateral interests to dominate multilateral responses to migration issues. On the other hand, earmarked funding has arguably also allowed the international community to extend protection to displaced populations not covered by the refugee convention.



Working paper

Publication Date





1 - 37


migration; governance; international organizations; resources; funding; International Organization for Migration (IOM)