Solidarity Levy
The United Nations is urging countries to adopt a solidarity levy in order to help victims of war and natural disasters.

The recommendation comes with the news that $40 billion per year is now needed to help vulnerable populations. Climate change and prolonged regional armed conflicts have resulted in a $15 billion shortage in relief funding, the organization says.

“The stakes are sky high,” said U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. “More than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance worldwide. The financial burden is five times greater than a decade ago. Humanitarian action is now the U.N.’s costliest activity.”

In response, a U.N. panel on humanitarian financing has released recommendations on solutions to tackle the widening funding gap. In its report “Too Important to Fail,” the panel highlights, among others, two strategies: adopting a solidarity levy to broaden the humanitarian resource base and reducing the need for humanitarian intervention altogether.

A “solidarity levy,” the panel suggests, is a promising solution to the revenue shortage because it corrects an over-reliance on humanitarian donations. The levy is a tax voluntarily adopted by countries and applied to airline tickets, sporting tickets and other transactions.

The idea has been successful in the past. One such levy on airline tickets raised over $1.7 billion for UNITAID’s fight against HIV and malaria between 2006 and 2011.

The panel wants more countries to adopt this model to generate more predictable and reliable streams of income for humanitarian work. “The simple act of catching a plane turns passengers into contributors to the cause of saving lives—it is responsible travel on an enormous scale,” the report said.

However, one of the most meaningful ways to reduce the cost of humanitarian aid is to build resilience to conflict and disaster, the panel noted. Over 93 percent of people who live in extreme poverty also live in fragile countries.

The U.N. panel recommends using scarce development dollars in the most vulnerable countries first in order to build adequate infrastructure and emergency services. It also supports the existing recommendation to allocate more funds to the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund, which is used to foster political dialogue and strengthen national institutions. Taking these steps, the U.N. suggests, will mitigate the costliest emergency interventions.

In the meantime, more funding is needed to address current issues. With the World Humanitarian Summit set to take place in Istanbul in May of this year, the panel is hopeful that its report will encourage conversations about adopting a solidarity levy and the future of humanitarian financing.

Ron Minard

Sources: IB Times, UN 1, UN 2, World Humanitarian Summit

World Briefing: Bosnia 101

The Bosnian war took place on the other side of the world, but was so profound in horror and destruction that we in the West still speak of it today.

The Bosnian war started in what was formerly Yugoslavia, when ethnic divisions came to a boil. There were 3 main ethnic groups uneasily coexisting: the Catholic Croats, the Muslim Bosniaks and the Orthodox Serbs. The war started after the Bosniaks and Croats attempted to secede and declare independence. They were subsequently attacked by the Bosnian Serbs, who were against their independence. The conflict was mainly territorial, with the groups warring over allocation of land and ethnicity.

Bosnia’s war was characterized by its brutality, particularly by the Serbian forces. While the entire war was marked by extreme violence and cruelty, the two most infamous events were the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre, and through their horror, they have come to symbolize the conflict.

The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege on a city in the history of modern warfare, lasting from 1992 to 1996. Survivors describe a return to the Stone Age, without access to food, medicine, water, electricity or gas. Citizens lived in constant fear of random shellings by the Serbs, or attacks from others within the city who were desperate for food or ammo. The Serbs deliberately attempted to exterminate Bosnian men and boys, and rape and sexual violence were common weapons of war, against girls as young as 12.

The massacre at Srebrenica (also known as the Srebrenica genocide) saw the organized killing of over 8,000 men and boys at the town of Srebrenica. Accounts of the massacre are reminiscent of the holocaust, with mass transport and murder of citizens. Though the UN attempted to establish a protected perimeter, it was unable to prevent Serbian soldiers from murdering and brutalizing citizens at will. The Serbian government issued an official apology for it in 2010.

The war was a bloody, complex and hideously drawn-out affair in which the Bosniaks and Croats were slowly but surely being defeated until a NATO intervention in 1994. In 1995, after nearly a month of negotiations, the Dayton Agreement was signed, creating the Bosnia and Herzegovina of today.  Still relatively recent, the leaders of the respective armies and those who were in political power are still undergoing trial for war crimes. Slobodan Milošević, who was president at the time, died while awaiting a verdict at The Hague.

Many make reference to the Bosnian war as a result of a lack of international intervention in times of crisis. Then US Assistant Secretary of State referred to it as “the greatest failing of the West since the 1930s.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: The History Place
Photo: Serbrenica Genocide