UN piles pressure, seeks implementation of tax exemption on aid

UN piles pressure, seeks implementation of tax exemption on aid

Negotiations between the Government of South Sudan and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are still on in the aftermath of the move by Juba to withdraw taxes and fees imposed on humanitarian goods and fuel.

The policy reversal followed an appeal from the United Nations, urging the government to reconsider its stance.

Ambassador Timo Olkkonen, leader of the European Union (EU) delegation to South Sudan, emphasised the urgency of resolving taxation issues affecting humanitarian operations.

“What matters now is implementation, we hear that things are moving, and we are looking forward to a resolution, and we encourage all the stakeholders to resolve this issue so that the fuel and other essential items will be coming here for the service of the South Sudanese, and so that the humanitarian community and the UN can continue with their life-saving and peacekeeping work,” he appealed.

The implementation of fees in February led to the suspension of vital U.N. food airdrops, affecting tens of thousands of people in remote areas inaccessible by road.

Olkkonen stressed the importance of swift implementation to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of essential supplies and the continuation of life-saving and peacekeeping efforts.

“We need to see trucks carrying fuel and aid supplies that have been stuck at borders moving and have the assurance that the UN and the humanitarian community can continue with their lifesaving and peacekeeping work,” Olkkonen said.

In addition, the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP South Sudan, Titus Osundina, highlighted the adverse effects of taxation on UN operations.

“The imposition of taxes had disrupted operations, particularly due to delays in fuel supply, impacting humanitarian work more than development efforts,” he noted on Wednesday in Juba.

The disagreement revolves around which organisations will be required to pay the new fees, with South Sudan’s Finance Minister, Awow Daniel, asserting that UN humanitarian organizations and diplomatic missions are tax-exempt.

Awow issued this statement two weeks ago, when the government responded with a compromise offer to withdraw that requirement for the UN but not all.

However, companies contracted by UNMISS are subject to taxes under the Status of Forces Agreement.

Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), emphasized the direct impact of taxes on NGOs implementing UN-funded projects.

The lifting of taxes on UN operations would alleviate financial burdens on NGOs, enabling smoother project implementation.

“So, what I’m trying to say is that the impact of the taxes that were imposed on the UN was directly affecting us as an organization that has funding coming from the UN, like the UN quick impact project that we implement through UNMISS,” Yakani said.

He added, “And once the taxes have been lifted, then also we benefited from that because the project we’re implementing is UN-funded projects that are not subject to be taxed.”

As negotiations continue, stakeholders stress the importance of resolving taxation issues promptly to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid and the smooth functioning of UN operations in South Sudan.