Plea comes as first delivery of food reaches residents of Madaya and two other starving towns cut off for months by war.
An estimated $40bn is needed annually to help the rapidly growing number of people needing humanitarian aid as a result of conflicts and natural disasters, a UN-appointed panel has said.
The world is spending about $25bn today to provide life-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters.
One possibility to help fill the $15bn funding gap is a small voluntary tax on tickets for sports and entertainment events, concerts, air travel and fuel, the nine-member panel’s report on humanitarian financing added.
The additional amount is needed annually to reduce suffering and ensure that no one in need dies or has to live “without dignity” because of a lack of money.
“We have an exponentially growing problem,” said panel co-chair Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commission’s vice president for budget and human resources.
“The good news is that the world has never been so generous to people in need. The bad news is that never has our generosity been so insufficient.”
The $25bn spent is more than 12 times the $2bn that was spent in 2000 to provide assistance to people in need.
“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing $78 trillion of annual GDP,” the panel said.
The 31-page report said massive instability in current times and its capacity to cross borders, demonstrated by the flight of people from Syria and other conflict areas to Europe, “makes humanitarian aid a global public good that requires an appropriate fundraising model”.
It recommended that at the first UN humanitarian summit, to be held in Istanbul this May, governments voluntarily sign up to “the successful model of a solidarity levy and create a steady flow of revenues for humanitarian action”.
The report points to a small levy on airline tickets, initially proposed by France, which raised $1.75bn between 2006 and 2011 from just 10 participating countries to help fund diagnosis and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in low-income countries.
But Georgieva said the panel could not agree on the specifics of a levy because some members are against taxation, adding she was “more optimistic on a voluntary levy, especially combined with social responsibility”.
The panel has talked about a small tax on “high-volume transaction businesses” such as Uber, concerts, movies and sports tickets and has been talking to some “potential players” including FIFA, football’s world governing body, Georgieva said.
She said people probably would not feel a five-cent or 10-cent addition to a ticket or a ride, but the money generated could have a major humanitarian impact.
The report also calls for governments with greater wealth to provide more aid and for the humanitarian community to “harness the power of business to deliver its key skills and capabilities”.
Georgieva said zakat, the annual donation many Muslims are religiously required to make annually, raises between $300bn and $500bn a year, and earmarking just one percent of that for humanitarian aid would go “a long way” towards closing the $15bn gap.
To shrink the need for aid, the panel called for world leaders to commit to preventing and resolving conflicts and to increasing investments in reducing the risk of natural disasters.
In addition to putting more money in these areas, it recommends that aid should focus on “fragile countries” and countries experiencing shocks because of conflicts or natural disasters.