Eric LeCompte Addresses United Nations on Resolving Debt, Financial and Climate Crises

Jubilee USA's Director Eric LeCompte spoke at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for the UN Conference on Trade and Development ‎12th Debt Management Conference. Read his remarks on debt, tax and transparency policies that address the root causes of poverty. Read the speech below or linked here

 

The 12th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Debt Management Conference:
Making Debt Work for Development
United Nations
Geneva, Switzerland 

Building Resilient, Sustainable Communities, Lifting the Vulnerable, Addressing Inequality and Mitigating Natural Disasters

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee USA Network
November 19th, 2019
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

 

I want to extend my gratitude to all of the organizers of the 12th UNCTAD Debt Management Conference: Making Debt Work for Development. This convening comes at a critical, frightening moment. While the title of these UN Meetings encourages debt to work for development, we need to ask the question: is debt hindering development?

With UNCTAD noting that debt sustainability in developing countries is “deteriorating fast” and the International Monetary Fund stating in August that 47% of low-income countries are in debt crisis or facing high debt distress, human beings are suffering. In too many poor countries, high debts mean people don’t eat, people don’t see doctors and communities are unprepared to deal with the havoc caused by tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and other extreme weather events.

Because of high unsustainable debts, corruption, a lack of public budget transparency, tax evasion, tax avoidance and bad trade deals – countries are losing revenue and this real revenue loss becomes a theft from the poor. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children under the age of five are dying every single day. 

If these numbers aren’t frightening enough, these same structural causes of poverty are also why we have extreme inequality. Why 80 people have more wealth than 3.5 billion or half the world’s people, people who live in poverty.

High debts and these other structural issues are why the IMF and UNCTAD are warning all of us that we could experience another global financial crisis. This frightens all of us.

This convening comes at a critical, frightening moment and we ask are debts hindering development, are high debts creating the conditions for another global financial crisis? 

My organization, Jubilee USA Network is well positioned to respond to these issues because of our unique history in creating and supporting policies that successfully resolve unsustainable debts, prevent financial crisis and diminish poverty.

Jubilee USA is part of the broader community of global organizations that coalesced around resolving debt crisis in the poorest countries of the world over 20 years ago. Jubilee USA moves forward global policies that address the root causes of poverty and inequality related to debt, tax, trade and transparency issues. In the United States, Jubilee USA’s founders and members include the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, American Jewish World Service, Islamic Relief, the United Church of Christ, The Evangelical Lutheran Church, The Episcopal Church and most mainline Christian Churches. 

Congressional Quarterly cites the work of Jubilee USA as some of the last truly bipartisan efforts in the United States.

In the 1990’s we began our work together to address inequality and finance development by addressing the global debt crisis. Working with many of you in this room and governments around the world, together, we won two great debt relief and financing initiatives to address global poverty and promote children’s education and health: The Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). Because of these initiatives, over $115 billion was won in debt relief to benefit some of the world’s poorest countries. 

Because of that debt relief, we know in sub-Saharan Africa that more than 54 million kids went to school who never would have seen the inside of a classroom. We know that school fees were cancelled, hospitals were opened, because of this historic initiative, because of this relief and the international accountability laws that we won, all of this money had to go into building social infrastructure. Former World Bank President Jim Kim cites debt relief as one of the main reasons we saw sustained economic growth in some countries across Africa.

It was out of these initiatives that concepts around achieving debt sustainability were born. 

Unfortunately, as successful and important as HIPC and MDRI were, we now realize that those solutions were not enough to entirely address the problem. Out of the 38 very poor countries that benefited from the HIPC and MDRI initiatives, 31 again face debt distress, financial crisis or unsustainable debts. 31 out of 38. At this point only Somalia is able to qualify for this existing process. Eventually 2 other countries may be able to utilize this process. 

But for every other country in the world, this door is now closed.

While the door is closed now for almost every country in the world on this process, we acknowledge that it was only because of the political will of the people in this room and our countries that this happened. In 2016 we saw that political will again in the United States under the Republican led US Congress when a super bankruptcy process was created to deal with Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt crisis. It was the first act of the US Congress to stop predatory “vulture funds.” After Haiti’s tragic earthquake, we saw world leaders and the IMF create a process to relieve Haiti’s debt. Just a few years ago, we saw that political will again when the IMF moved forward a debt relief process and innovative grant process to respond to the 3 Ebola affected countries of Guinea, Sierra Leon and Liberia.

We also see the US Government and the G20 working to stop “vulture funds,” promote sustainable development and prevent financial crisis with the Operational Guidelines for Sustainable Development. Political will mobilized again to create new contract clauses to stop predatory “vulture funds.”  

Now we need that political will again. 

We need that political will from all of us to ensure that debt is a vehicle for sustainable development, not a hindrance to development and a cause of human suffering. We need to make debt sustainable and restructurings predictable to stop another global financial crisis.

While the problems are great, there are solutions we can move forward now. 

With political will growing, we can tackle some of the debt problems of Small Island Developing States or SIDS. Across the world, many of these islands have poverty rates that range from 30% to 50%. These so called Middle-Income Small Islands are now facing crisis. Of the 25 highest debt per capita countries, more than half are SIDS.

Unsustainable debts mean that these small islands don’t have resources to deal with the shock of a hurricane or a financial crisis that stops tourists from visiting their countries. When hurricanes decimated Caribbean islands in the last five years, we saw countries like Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda make debt payments within days of a hurricane ravaging their country. It is imperative to move forward proposals that can restructure debt when countries face shocks or natural disasters. 

We see the success of proposals like this, when debt relief was successfully used as a crisis response tool for the three African countries hit by the Ebola epidemic. 

When disaster strikes, when famine spreads and when economic crisis impacts the poor, we need to be able to reevaluate these situations. In line with our previous thoughts on improving debt restructuring and looking at Chapter 9 and 11 styles of bankruptcy – it seems the Caribbean and SIDS could be good candidates for a regional or focused initiative. This post HIPC initiative, could be an initiative with the high debt distress many Caribbean countries and SIDS are experiencing. It can utilize the principles of bankruptcy for a regional or focused mechanism. When a disaster strikes, a debt moratorium would allow breathing space and debt payments to be used for rebuilding. This would also be a time to reevaluate debt sustainability and possibly trigger a bankruptcy restructuring process.

We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

For small islands, on a smaller scale, we can test solutions that can build resilient, sustainable communities, address inequality and lift the vulnerable. Starting here, we can build the political will to finally resolve debt crisis and stop global financial crises.

Thank you.

 

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Report Highlights Failing Puerto Rico Bridges, Roads and Infrastructure

Washington DC - This week the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report noting that Puerto Rico's dams, bridges and other infrastructure need $13 to $23 billion in repairs over the next 10 years. The group highlighted that due to "deferred maintenance and hurricane-related recovery projects, the investment gap is even larger."

"Before the hurricanes hit two years ago, Puerto Rico's roads, bridges and electrical grid were already in disrepair because of the island's debt crisis," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte's organization focused on Puerto Rico debt and disaster policies since 2014. "Now that even approved federal disaster monies are not reaching the island, the situation in Puerto Rico feels bleak."

In 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Of about $50 billion federally approved for recovery, less than $20 billion reached the US Territory.

Read the report from the American Society of Civil Engineers here

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National Catholic Reporter Cites Eric LeCompte on Pope's Amazon Synod

The National Catholic Reporter cites Eric LeCompte on the Pope's message on ecological and economic themes in the recent Amazon Synod. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

The Amazon synod is about the concept of social sin, not married priests

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Eric LeCompte's Thoughts Featured in Crux on Amazon Synod

Crux features Eric LeCompte's thoughts on the recent Amazon Synod and the Pope's economic and ecological message. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

Activist says idea of ‘ecological sin’ boils down to, ‘We consume too much'

NEW YORK - In recent years, Jubilee USA Network has won more than $130 billion in debt relief for some of the poorest countries around the globe inspired by Pope Saint John Paul II’s Jubilee Year call to stand in solidarity with the world’s poor.

Now, executive director Eric LeCompte is hoping Pope Francis’s Synod on the Amazon will help further galvanize Catholics in the U.S. to turn their attention to a region he believes has been in part degraded by American policies.

In an interview with Crux, LeCompte described why he believes the focus of the Amazon Synod shouldn’t be on married priests or women, but rather on the pope’s economic and ecological message.

Crux: Much of the focus on the synod has been on married priests and women deacons, but you’re concerned that the pope’s economic and ecological message is overshadowed. How so?

LeCompte: When we see CNN or read USA Today, we are led to believe that the synod was entirely about married priests and women deacons. Married priests and the diaconate are only a small focus in this document.

We should not forget that the synod primarily moves forward an Amazon rite, and like other rites that are in communion with Rome, we see married priests that help fulfill their people’s spiritual needs. There is also an unsaid reality that in the deep, hard to reach places of the Amazon, married priests may already exist.

But in a synod squarely focused on the Amazon, ministerial shifts for the Amazon are in part about servicing people so their economic needs are met and their human rights are protected. We read the final document and of the 33 pages, ministerial shifts are only a few lines.

What we see when we read the document, is a strong focus to protect indigenous communities, human rights defenders and our planet. Perhaps the strongest message in the final document, that the mainstream media kicked aside, is that many of the regional and global challenges we do have in common, is that we are all consuming too much.

The final document has some strong language about ecological sin? What does that mean to you?

We can boil down the synod’s message simply to: we are consuming too much.

Whether we live in the Amazon or the United States of America, we all are consuming too much. It’s a tough message and it may be the closest the Catholic Church has ever gotten to the concept of social sin, that as an entire society - our level of consumption is sinful. Our level of consumption is hurting our planet, depriving the poor and disconnecting us from one another. While this is a regional document, it gets pretty specific on the idea of ecological sin. The document not only encourages us to check our addiction on fossil fuels, but even specifically challenges us to consume less meat.

The final document also calls for new models of “fair, solidarity, and sustainable development.” In what ways do you believe the U.S. is responsible for the degradation in the Amazon?

In the Holy Father’s homily at the closing Mass of the synod, he lifted one of the concepts most important to him. We must stop predatory development models in the Amazon. These are models that exploit the people of the Amazon and take their resources while benefiting foreigners.

Many U.S. corporations are notorious for land grabs and taking resources in ways that do violence to the Amazon’s communities and ecosystems. Trade agreements with the United States protect U.S. corporations when they do harm in the Amazon. The World Bank does development by giving loans for the extraction of natural resources. Some communities in the Amazon participate in these abuses too, some because their lives depend on it and others for exploiting profit.

In what practical ways do you think the synod can help the U.S. Church?

Because we are talking about an Amazon rite, I doubt in the U.S. Church we’ll see married priests as a solution to our priest shortage anytime soon. One of the global aspects though, is that the Holy See is reopening the global conversation on a diaconate that includes women. That conversation could help fulfill some of the religious needs of our U.S. communities.

If we read the 33-page outcome document of the synod, the message ultimately is that we all deserve to live in a world where we have enough, and not too much. It’s this message that can help us in the United States be in closer communion with one another, in solidarity with people fighting for survival in the Amazon and closer to our loving God.

 

Read more here

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We're Winning, Action Needed ASAP

Friends,

Thanks to your partnership, we won White House support and passed legislation in the House of Representatives to stop human trafficking, raise revenue in the developing world and protect debt relief and development aid.

We now need to leap over the last hurdle: the US Senate. Please make a gift now so we have the resources we desperately need to move the Senate. Contributions to Jubilee USA are doubled now. 

Beyond our 10 year campaign finally winning, we have an unbelievable series of successes to celebrate. In recent weeks:

  • Jubilee USA appeared in tens of thousands of newspapers across the world and in every US State
  • We addressed the world's Presidents and Prime Ministers at the United Nations General Assembly
  • We won debt relief for Puerto Rico
  • Pope Francis and the Vatican highlighted our analysis in the Pope's Africa travels on debt, tax and corruption
  • And Congress committed to vote on our Jubilee legislation within the next few days

Will you please join me and make a contribution to support our mission at Jubilee USA. Gifts are doubled now, tax-deductible and needed to move forward our incredibly urgent campaigns.

Your gift today means we can:

  • Win debt relief for Somalia. Three quarters of Somalia's population lives in extreme poverty and is still recovering from war and instability. Congress will vote on Somalia's debt relief and your support means we can move Congress. Your support also means we can move forward responsible lending and debt and disaster relief for Mozambique and Caribbean islands.

  • We can pass the Corporate Transparency Act in the Senate after we won the House and the White House. This legislation stops "Panama Papers" financial secrecy illustrated in the recent movie, the Laundromat. This behavior facilitates the theft of development aid, human trafficking and contributes to the loss of more than a trillion dollars of revenue in the developing world.

  • Move forward debt and disaster relief for Puerto Rico. Already our efforts together won $50 billion in aid and moved forward a super bankruptcy process for the island. Your gift means we can win debt relief, stop austerity policies, audit the debt and win the $70 billion in recovery aid Puerto Rico still needs.

  • Push for a new NAFTA trade deal that ensures vulnerable populations and all who need life-saving medicines can access the medicines they need. Working together, we already moved the White House to eliminate harmful provisions in trade agreements that favor predatory, debt- collecting hedge funds and abusive corporations. Congress votes this year on our efforts.

  • Address student debt, predatory debt collection and payday lending. Working together, we ensured types of student loans have low interest rates. When you donate to Jubilee USA now, it means our bipartisan, interfaith work can build bridges to protect students and consumers.

Please make a gift of $5, $500, $25, $50, $100 or any amount and it will be doubled. We really need your contribution now.

After we addressed the UN General Assembly two weeks ago, Presidents and Prime Ministers told me how grateful they are that Jubilee USA exists and wins for the vulnerable. When you make a gift today, it will be doubled and double our impact this year to win policies that lift and protect the vulnerable.

Gratefully,

Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

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We Won - Eyes, Action on Senate

Friends,

Together, we did it.

Thanks to your thousands of calls, petitions, postcards and messages - The House of Representatives passed the Corporate Transparency Act by a vote of 249-173, last night.

Our efforts together, also won support from the White House and the US Treasury.

Now - to win, we must move the Senate to pass the Corporate Transparency Act or one of several similar pieces of Jubilee legislation.

Please send an email to your Senators now.

Email your Senators and ask them to cosponsor legislation that reveals the true owners of "anonymous" shell companies. Tell your Senators that this legislation is vital to stop human traffickers, defend vulnerable communities and protect development aid and debt relief.

A decade ago, Jubilee USA found out that debt relief and development aid was stolen by dictators and corrupt officials by using shell companies. As we began our campaign, we saw that human traffickers, arms dealers and criminals who ran Medicare scams - all used "anonymous" shell companies to do their deeds in secret.

Thanks to our partnership and your continued efforts, our Jubilee USA legislation can now become law.

Please take a moment and e-mail the Senate so we can cross the finish line.

Gratefully,



Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

Twitter: @Eric_LeCompte
https://jubileeusa.nationbuilder.com/support-us


P.s. Please make a donation to Jubilee USA Network now. For a limited time, all gifts are doubled. We really need your support to keep winning and to continue our strategic campaigns.

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Eric LeCompte Cited by AFP on Corporate Transparency

Agence France-Presse cites Eric LeCompte on the Corporate Transparency Act 2019 after it passed through the House this week. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

US House approves bill exposing shell company owners

According to Eric LeCompte, a United Nations finance expert and the head of the religious development group Jubilee USA, the bill also "stops human traffickers, corrupt government officials and revenue loss in the developing world."
Read more here

 

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Corporate Transparency Act Passes House

Washington DC - The House of Representatives passed the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019 (H.R. 2513) by a  249 to 173 vote. The bill reveals the true owners of "anonymous" shell companies to law enforcement.

"This legislation stops human traffickers, corrupt government officials and revenue loss in the developing world,” noted Eric LeCompte, a United Nations finance expert and the Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. “The Senate must now pass this vital legislation."

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Senators could likely move this bill or similar legislation. The White House and US Treasury pledge support for this type of legislation.

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Congress Votes on Corporate Transparency Act

Washington DC - The House of Representatives scheduled a vote for 5:15 PM EST on the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019 (H.R. 2513). The bill reveals the true owners of "anonymous" shell companies to law enforcement.

"This legislation helps us stop human traffickers and corrupt public officials and protects development aid,” said Eric LeCompte, a United Nations finance expert and the Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte's organization generated thousands of messages to Congress in support of the bill. “Shell companies contribute to a trillion dollar loss to the developing world every single year."

The bill, sponsored by Representatives, Peter King (R-NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) would prevent types of Medicare fraud and stop a number of criminal activities.

Read Jubilee USA's Action Alert on the Corporate Transparency Act

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Today: Congress Jubilee Vote, Call Now - the Corporate Transparency Act

Friends, 

Thanks to your work, Congress votes today on Jubilee legislation to stop corruption, prevent human trafficking and protect debt relief and development aid.

The House of Representatives could vote as early as 5:00 PM today on our Corporate Transparency Act. Your call is needed now. Please take two minutes and tell your Representative to vote for the bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act.

Your actions over the last few weeks, months and years have finally gotten us to this point. In recent weeks, we've generated thousands of phone calls to Congress urging support for the Corporate Transparency Act. Over the weekend, Congregations across the United States ran petition drives and postcard rallies in support of the Corporate Transparency Act.

Tens of thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of good will - prayed and acted for Jubilee this past weekend.

Today, the United Church of Christ, Catholic religious orders, interfaith organizations and congregations from coast to coast are joining Jubilee USA and sending companion action alerts to even generate more phone calls to Congress.

Today - if we can generate enough calls on our Republican and Democratic led legislation, we can finally win a vote we've been working towards for 10 years.

With a vote about to take place on the Corporate Transparency Act, your call to your Representative can make the difference. Tell your Rep to end financial secrecy, protect vulnerable communities, prevent the profiting of human trafficking, protect aid and debt relief and ensure that poor people aren't exploited.

This vital Jubilee legislation reveals the true owners of "anonymous" shell companies to government authorities. These shell companies hide those who profit from human trafficking, dictators use them to steal development aid and debt relief - these shell companies contribute to a loss of nearly a trillion dollars a year from the developing world.

Your consistent actions on this campaign for the last 10 years made a difference. Your thousands of postcards, phone calls and e-mails in recent weeks have gotten us here today. Now - please make one more phone call so we can move this legislation in the House and then move our campaign to the Senate.


Gratefully,


Kate Zeller

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