Influencing laws and guidelines on humanitarian assistance (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1236)

Abstract

Query

In response to an emergency/crisis what experience is there amongst humanitarian partners of successfully influencing the recipient government’s stance towards the taxing or imposing other duties/levies on humanitarian assistance?

Overview

International humanitarian law (IHL) and international disaster response laws, rules and principles (IDRL) set out rules and guidance on how to access affected populations, and how to deliver humanitarian assistance, during armed conflicts and disasters. This includes guidance on customs clearance and the taxation of relief, among other areas (Haider, 2013, p.7). IDRL is a fragmented collection of treaties, nonbinding resolutions, guidelines and rules which have in many examples been adopted into national laws.

This paper collates information on how humanitarian actors have influenced governments to adopt these treaties, resolutions, guidelines, rules, and the resultant national laws. Where information is available, it focuses on the clauses relating to taxes, duties or levies on humanitarian action. It includes examples of formal influence (i.e. influencing the adoption of a law) and informal influence (i.e. influencing customs officials to not charge official duties and taxes). There is a paucity of information on this subject, and no single sources that examine this question. While there are some country examples, they often do not explore in any depth the role that humanitarian actors played influencing this process, and often do not specify how particular clauses were discussed (e.g. clauses on taxation). The literature is predominantly published by practitioners, with some by think tanks. Information has also been sourced through organisational websites. Due to the lack of available information this query is not comprehensive, but collates the fragmented information that is available. The country case examples may provide useful entry points for further research on this question.

Citation

Herbert, S. Influencing laws and guidelines on humanitarian assistance (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1236). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2015) 11 pp.

Influencing laws and guidelines on humanitarian assistance (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1236)

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