LONDON, Jan 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A $15 billion
shortfall in global humanitarian aid could be addressed by
tapping into innovative sources of finance, such as smartphone
apps, the football industry and wealthy Islamic donors, a United
Nations panel of experts said on Sunday.
Despite rising global wealth, the 'outdated' aid system has
been unable to meet all the world's needs, including those
stemming from financial crises, natural disasters and violent
extremism, said the nine panelists in a new report.
Among the ideas discussed were micro payments levied on
so-called mass volume transactions, such as airline tickets,
said Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commission vice
president who co-chaired the panel, adding that such schemes
For example, the U.N.'s global health initiative, UNITAID,
funds its work in finding new ways to treat, prevent and
diagnose malaria with an air ticket surtax, the report said.
Ahead of publication, Georgieva said the panel had made
initial contact with the world football governing body, FIFA,
and had considered how funds might be generated from a 'global
luxury tax' or small levies on entertainment purchases or taxi
rides, for example on users of the Uber smartphone app.
"Five cents that level of micro levy on a massive volume,
we think is possible," said the former World Bank economist.
But the panel, which included banking executives, civil
society leaders and government ministers, had not come to a
consensus on specific proposals, she said.
Some of its members were "dead against taxation" as a source
of such funding and so the debate would continue on how extra
cash might be raised, she said.
The report's authors noted the need to better coordinate the
rising share of government aid donated by richer Gulf states,
especially given the overwhelming needs of people affected by
conflict in the Arab world.
Thirty-one of 33 active conflicts are in Muslim majority
countries, the report said, yet there are no official targets
like ones adopted by wealthy Western nations to cream off part
of the Islamic world's $16 trillion economy at the global level.
"We are working on some very concrete products to tap into
different parts of Islamic finance," said Georgieva.
One of the ideas explored in the report is the use of
Islamic mandatory alms-giving or zakat, which is estimated by
the Islamic Development Bank to be worth between $232 billion
and $560 billion annually, the report said.
Georgieva said $3-5 billion of the $15 billion funding gap
could be met by Islamic finance.
Financial contracts known as social impact bonds, which aim
to offer return for investors when pre-agreed social outcomes
are achieved, could be more widely used in disaster-prone
regions, said the report 'Too important to fail - addressing the
humanitarian financing gap'.
One example cited was the Islamic funding practice known as
sukuk, which raised $700 million between 2014 and 2015 for a
global immunisation scheme, supported by philanthropists,
governments and the World Bank.
Its findings are due to be endorsed by the U.N. Secretary
General, Ban Ki-moon, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on
Sunday (at 1300 GMT), ahead of the first World Humanitarian
Summit, due to take place in Turkey in May.
The summit's 5,000 delegates, including governments, U.N.
agencies, humanitarian charities and the private sector, will
then be pressed to turn the proposals into meaningful goals, but
they will not be legally binding.
In addition to discussing creative and more sustained
funding practices, summit organisers are expected to try to
harmonise the aid accounting system to reduce administration
costs and the length of time relief workers have to spend on
(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels,
Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate
change. Visit www.trust.org)