A Japanese engineer at work at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in Juba. UN Photo

CIC Data in Focus: UN Peacekeeping Budgets by Component, Part III

CIC Data in Focus is a blog series discussing trends, peculiarities, and questions arising from UN data, mainly drawn from our datasets here at the Center on International Cooperation. In case you missed them, our last two posts explored an unusual divergence between uniformed personnel (i.e. troops and police) and operational requirements (e.g. transportation, communications, facilities and infrastructure) as a percentage of the UN peacekeeping budget over the last several years.

4 min readDec 17, 2018


To recap, our last post found that this divergence has been driven in large part by a few major operational requirements receiving smaller budgets over time, including facilities and infrastructure, air and ground transportation, and communications and IT.

Most of the largest peacekeeping missions are now between four and seven years old, which could be part of the explanation, as missions tend to have large upfront costs in their first few years (setting up bases and infrastructure, acquiring equipment, transporting personnel to the field, etc.).

However, it’s unclear if this is the entire story. Another possibility could be that items formerly included under operational requirements have somehow shifted into the other two peacekeeping budget categories, uniformed personnel and civilian staff. As we’ve noted previously, budgets for civilian staff per capita have risen over the last several years, though we don’t know why.

We can explore a potential link (or lack thereof) between civilian staff and operational requirements by checking whether there is a relationship over time between (1) the number of civilian staff in specific job categories and (2) the budget appropriations for corresponding operational categories:

Facilities & Infrastructure: Budgets & Civilian Staff in UN Peacekeeping, 2012–2017

Transportation: Budgets & Civilian Staff in UN Peacekeeping, 2012–2017

Communications & IT: Budgets & Civilian Staff in UN Peacekeeping, 2012–2017

Data Source: United Nations. Prepared by the Center on International Cooperation. Figures are based upon the annual median number of civilian personnel in UN Peacekeeping within each category, and the annual budget appropriations for each category (which are set each year for the period beginning July 1st and ending the following June 30th). “Transportation” includes air and ground transportation. Figures are based upon publicly available data and may be subject to revision.

These operational budget sub-categories were selected because there is readily available corresponding civilian staff data, and because these sub-categories collectively make up about 80 percent of all operational requirements in any given year. There are visible (and measurable) correlations between appropriations and civilian staff in each of these categories, allowing us to make some initial inferences.

The general trend has been for civilian staff and their corresponding budget categories to decrease roughly in tandem. This suggests that operational requirements aren’t being shifted into civilian staff budgets, at least not entirely (because if they were, who would be carrying them out?). One exception are expenditures on facilities and infrastructure. As we can see in the first graph, they have been going down, while the number of staff remained steady over the past five years.

The dynamics in facilities and infrastructure is consistent with our previous finding that civilian staff budgets have not fallen nearly as fast as the number of actual staff in recent years, the question remains: have civilian staff been receiving greater compensation on average, or has some other kind of spending (possibly operational) been inflating civilian staff budgets per capita — or some combination of both?

Other questions remain about operational requirements. Has this budget category really been dropping as dramatically as the data indicates, or has some portion been unaccounted for, or shifted into other budget categories? Because the civilian staff and military personnel parts of the budget data are not disaggregated with any granularity, it’s difficult to know what exactly has been going on.

Looking forward, it will be interesting to see whether these general patterns have persisted once 2018 civilian staff data is available. Also, if data ever becomes available on uniformed personnel disaggregated by functions/responsibilities, it would be illuminating to conduct this kind of analysis again.

If you have more ideas or questions about what we’re observing, we welcome your tweets @PeaceOpsCIC or @nyuCIC.

Thanks for reading Data in Focus. We welcome and appreciate your feedback. Drop us a line at paul [at] sdg16.plus if there’s something you’d like to see us add to the blog.