The UN Foundation - A foundation for the UN?


The United Nations face a funding dilemma. On the one hand, member states continue to transfer new responsibilities to the UN system, not least in implementing the 2030 Agenda and their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); on the other hand, they do not match these mandates with adequate resources.

Some see the way out of this financial mess in reinforced UN partnerships with private donors and their foundations. The UN Foundation (UNF) plays a special role here. It was established by US billionaire Ted Turner two decades ago principally to champion and support the work of the United Nations.The Global Policy Forum, in cooperation with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, has taken a closer look at the work of the UNF and its special relationship with the UN in a new working paper.

It describes the origins and the evolution of the UNF and its relationship with the UN. It shows that, in pursuing this aim, the Foundation appears to have developed a business model and growth strategy that primarily promote its own priorities, activities and expansion, while the direct financial support to the UN decreased significantly.

The UNF’s support of the UN must also be seen in context. Ted Turner and the UNF leadership have a clear vision of the way to tackle global problems and the role the UN should play, centred solidly on public-private partnerships and multi-stakeholder approaches. The UNF has been among the driving forces behind the opening of the UN towards the business sector. The working paper examines benefits, risks and side effects of these trends, and ends with a few findings and conclusions.

Working Paper

By Barbara Adams and Jens Martens

Published by: Global Policy Forum and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung — New York Office

Bonn/Berlin/New York, March 2018

ISBN 978-3-943126-38-9

Download the working paper here (pdf, 928 KB)