Pandora Papers Reveal Financial Secrecy that Drains Resources from Poor Countries

Washington DC – An investigation into more than 11 million private financial documents show hundreds of public officials in 90 nations using schemes to hide wealth offshore and avoid taxes. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Pandora Papers in partnership with the Washington Post and 600 journalists in 116 countries.

"The Pandora Papers provide a window into a secret world where the rich and famous can avoid paying taxes," noted Eric LeCompte, a United Nations finance expert and  Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Tax avoidance is part of the reason that too many countries lack the resources to fight the pandemic."

A trillion dollars leaves the developing world annually through crime, tax evasion and corruption. The leak shows how these monies increasingly land in accounts in the United States.

"Shell companies and tax havens enable corrupt politicians to steal resources from developing countries," stated LeCompte.

In January, Jubilee USA capped a decade of advocacy with the passage of the Corporate Transparency Act. The law requires the owners of US companies to disclose their true identities to the Treasury. In June, President Biden elevated the fight against corruption to a national security priority and mandated an inter-agency review to make recommendations.

“President Biden is on the right track as he pushes greater transparency in the global financial system,” shared LeCompte.

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IMF Urges Wealthy Countries to Send COVID Aid to Poor Countries

Washington DC – IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva urged wealthy countries to donate IMF emergency COVID aid to developing countries. Her remarks opened an event organized by Jubilee USA Network in preparation for October IMF and G20 meetings.

“In August, the IMF created a type of emergency currency called Special Drawing Rights to help countries fight the COVID economic and health crises,” said Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. "Wealthy countries received more than $400 billion of the relief aid while developing countries received around $235 billion. Wealthy countries can't use the special currency and should donate it to poor countries being ravaged by the pandemic."

The IMF's Strategy, Policy and Review Department Director Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, former finance officials and development groups spoke at the event.

“Developing countries can use the emergency aid for healthcare, social programs and protecting the environment,” added LeCompte. 

In a letter sent to the G20 organized by Jubilee USA Network and Latindadd, 250 organizations propose guidelines for wealthy countries to donate their Special Drawing Rights to developing countries.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the G20/IMF letter here.

Read the IMF/G20 letter here.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the creation of Special Drawing Rights here.

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Wealthy Countries Must Share Pandemic Relief Aid, Organizations Say

Letter to G20 and IMF Outlines Principles for Sharing Special Drawing Rights

Washington DC – In a letter to finance ministers, 250 organizations call on wealthy countries to donate IMF emergency currency they don't need to poor countries. In August, the IMF created $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to support global coronavirus response. More than $400 billion went to wealthy countries and $230 billion went to developing countries.

“Wealthy countries recovering from the pandemic don't need the currency, while poor countries need the aid for vaccinations and the growing amount of people living in poverty,” said Aldo Caliari, one of the letter’s organizers and Senior Director of Policy for religious development organization Jubilee USA Network.

Letter signers said SDR sharing should provide debt-free and unconditional aid. The 250 groups raised concerns about the needs of middle-income developing countries.

“The pandemic revealed all developing countries, no matter their income, are vulnerable,” stated United Nations finance expert and Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. "The worst job losses and poverty increases during this crisis are taking place in developing middle-income countries, which are most of the world's countries," continued LeCompte. "The IMF and G20 need to support more options to get Special Drawing Rights to help these countries."

The letter states SDRs can finance health, education and efforts to protect the environment.

On October 1, Jubilee USA sponsors an event featuring IMF, UN and developing country speakers to discuss pandemic vulnerabilities in middle-income developing countries. On October 4, letter signers present their asks during an event with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Director of the IMF Strategy Policy and Review Department, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu.

Read the CSO letter here.

Watch the Civil Society Policy Forum event "Mapping Pandemic Vulnerabilities in Developing Countries" here.

Watch the Civil Society Policy Forum event "Making the Most of Special Drawing Rights: Approaches to Maximize Impact and Create a Sustainable and Just Recovery" here.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the creation of Special Drawing Rights here.

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Presbyterian News Service covers Jubilee Weekend

Presbyterian News Service covered the upcoming Jubilee Weekend and the opportunities it presents. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.

Jubilee Weekend is an opportunity for advocacy Oct. 15-17

By Darla Carter

Presbyterians are being encouraged to support a weekend of advocacy by the Jubilee USA Network, a partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that promotes debt relief for poor countries and an equitable distribution of vaccines.

“A COVID Response that Shares Medicine, Ends Poverty and Protects Our Planet” is the theme of this year’s Jubilee Weekend, which will be Oct. 15-17.

“Jubilee Weekend takes place each year, the same weekend as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank meetings. It’s also right before the G20, a forum of nations with the world’s largest economies," said Stefanie Ostfeld, managing director of the Jubilee USA Network. “At these meetings, world leaders are going to be making important decisions on many COVID-19 efforts, including debt relief, pandemic recovery and equitable vaccine access, so participating in Jubilee Weekend is an opportunity for religious groups to make their voices heard, demonstrating to decision makers these issues are a priority, they matter, and really, calling on them to act on behalf of the vulnerable.”

Anyone interested in participating can sign up on the network’s website to receive a packet of information about ways to get engaged, from holding worship services to calling members of Congress

“You could offer one prayer for vaccine distribution or increased aid for developing countries,” Ostfeld said. “A congregation could dedicate a worship service to poverty reduction or debt relief. You can also sign and circulate a petition to policymakers. You could hold a discussion group on these issues.”

Jubilee USA is a coalition of religious, development and advocacy groups that says it has won more than $130 billion in debt relief for the world’s poorest economies.

“We mobilize our members to take action to help build an economy that serves, protects and promotes participation of the most vulnerable,” Ostfeld said.

Read more here.

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Eric LeCompte mentioned by NPR & WITF on Biden's COVID-19 summit

Eric LeCompte was mention by NPR in a story covering President Biden's COVID-19 summit and rich nations' role in mitigating vaccine inequity. Listen to the full story and read the accompanying article here.   

The U.S. is donating more COVID vaccines and wants other rich nations to pitch in

By Tamara Keith/NPR

Biden defended the U.S. response, saying his first responsibility was to make sure Americans were protected, and arguing that the U.S. donations have been generous. “For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” Biden said.

The new tranche of Pfizer doses will be manufactured in U.S. plants and will be bought at a “not-for-profit” price, the officials said. Most U.S. vaccine shipments — 800 million doses — will ship between January and September 2022.

Read more here.

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Eric LeCompte featured in Crux on Biden's global COVID-19 summit

Eric LeCompte featured in Crux regarding the increased need for attention and work on global vaccine distribution following Biden's COVID-19 summit. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.

After Biden’s COVID-19 summit, ‘more work needs to be done’

By John Lavenburg

To date there have been more than six billion COVID-19 doses administered worldwide. However, more than 70 percent of all vaccine doses have been administered in 10 countries. This disparity has led Catholic leaders worldwide – including Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – to call for vaccine equity.

The commitments made at the summit aim to get 40 percent of the population in developing populations vaccinated by the end of the year, what LeCompte considers a “very, very hard commitment” to meet given the challenges that exist.

“The more realistic commitment is to have 70 percent of the world’s developing population vaccinated by mid-year next year, but that’s still a ways out and as important as the progress is, I’m still worried whether or not that’s going to be fast enough,” LeCompte said.

Chief among the challenges is the logistics of getting COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing nations and subsequently getting them in people’s arms. LeCompte notes that vaccine donations and production aren’t enough “if we don’t have the actual infrastructure in developing countries to deal with these issues.”

“There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, a lot more money that needs to be raised to be able to support the ability to get shots in the arms, as well as deal with all of these other vital healthcare infrastructure needs,” LeCompte said.

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Bloomberg quotes Eric LeCompte on Biden's call for increased vaccine donations

Eric LeCompte was quoted by Bloomberg in an article covering President Biden's virtual COVID-19 summit and call on rich nations to donate vaccines. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.   

Biden Calls on Rich Countries to Escalate Vaccine Donations

By Josh Wingrove

The new U.S. commitment is on top of a 500-million-dose donation announced in June at the Group of Seven summit in the U.K. Distribution of those vaccines began last month. Combined with 130 million doses shipped out so far that had initially been bought for domestic use, the U.S. donation total is now at least 1.13 billion doses, more than double the total delivered domestically.

Of those, at least 330 million have been pledged by the end of 2021. The remaining 800 million, including all of Biden’s new pledge, are to be delivered in 2022. 

This is the first time that the U.S. has set a global vaccination target, though advocates are urging more aggressive ones. The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, has called for 70% of the world to be vaccinated by the end of June, three months before Biden’s timeline.

“In some ways June and September are just too late,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit group. He gave the U.S. credit for hosting the summit. “We’re so excited that they are taking leadership on this, because there is unfortunately a leadership void, but we needed to get all this done yesterday,” he said. 

Read more here.
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The Guardian quotes Eric LeCompte on U.S. donation of additional vaccines to poor countries

Eric LeCompte was quoted by the Guardian in an article covering President Biden's decision to donate an additional 500 million COVID vaccines to poor countries. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.   

US to donate an additional 500m Covid vaccines to poorer countries, says Biden

By David Smith 

Joe Biden has announced that the US will donate an additional 500m Covid-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries around the world, bringing America’s total global donation to more than 1.1bn doses.

The US president outlined the plan on Wednesday at a virtual coronavirus summit where he urged world leaders to “go big” in tackling the pandemic and closing the vaccination gap with poorer nations.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network and a UN finance expert, who is attending the summit, said in an interview: “It’s amazing that the Biden administration is filling a leadership void but we cannot move quickly enough from our perspective for two reasons. There’s the moral case that developing countries are experiencing a fourth wave of the pandemic and people are dying in the streets. We have to save lives.

“But there’s also something that is equally important: if we are not focused on getting shots in arms in the developing world, more variants are going to come to the United States and we will face a continuing health crisis. Perhaps even more significantly, we’ll continue to experience severe economic shocks all over the world in the years to come.”

Read more here

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White House Holds Global COVID Summit at United Nations

Washington DC - On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, President Biden virtually hosts world leaders to make commitments for global vaccine and health equipment distribution. 

“As many developing countries struggle with a fourth wave of the pandemic, vaccines and treatment cannot come soon enough," noted Eric LeCompte who is attending the White House summit. LeCompte is the Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network and a UN finance expert. "The longer it takes to vaccinate the majority of the world's population translates to more virus variants and shocks to the global economy."

The White House summit focuses on targets of vaccinating at least 70% of every country's population, regional distribution hubs for protective equipment and global access to COVID treatments. 

"Bringing together heads of state and business leaders, Biden is filling a global leadership void to save lives and prevent more challenges to the global economy,” added LeCompte. "We face a more dire situation because the G20 failed to deliver on financing global vaccine distribution this summer."

In August, LeCompte and major religious leaders met with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on waiving COVID vaccine patents to increase vaccine production and access for developing countries.

"We agree with the White House on waiving vaccine pharmaceutical patents to boost global production of vaccines," stated LeCompte. "We don't expect the summit to focus on this critical issue."

Read about the US Trade Representative Tai/Jubilee USA Network roundtable here.

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Eric LeCompte featured on The Common Good podcast about cancelling student debt

Eric LeCompte featured on episode 921 of The Common Good Podcast entitled "Forgive Us Our Debts—Woes and Wins in Canceling Student Debt." Click here to listen to the episode.

Episode 0921— Eric LeCompte: Forgive Us Our Debts—Woes and Wins in Canceling Student Debt

Selected Statements from Eric LeCompte

"Student debt is a very important issue and it affects many of us, not only students but often grandparents, parents, and friends as well," said Eric LeCompte. "At the heart of all of this is the question of what kind of education should be enough and should we be ensuring that everyone receives it without putting a particular type of cost on that."

"There's a lot of good news in terms of the reality that when we look at student debt, there are many groups that are working on it, that are concerned about it," LeCompte said. "And in particular, because of the pandemic and its economic challenges, a significant part of the US population is facing this issue and you see it in the news a lot more than before." 

"The developing world loses a trillion dollars a year in tax evasion, tax avoidance, and corruption. Had these monies been captured, they wouldn't be experiences such a crisis," continues Eric. "Had the institutional jubilee process that we've been working on in terms of global bankruptcy that now Pope Francis endorses, had that and previous agreements been put in place after '08-'09 crisis or in 2014 or 2015, we would have the tools right now in place to stabilize our economies." 

Listen to the entire podcast episode here.

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Eric LeCompte quoted in West Orlando News article on the White House COVID-19 summit

Eric LeCompte was quoted in a West Orlando News Article covering the COVID-19 summit convened by the White House at the United Nations General Assembly. Read an excerpt below and find the full article here

White House to Convene Global COVID-19 Summit at UN General Assembly

By Rebecca Martin 

President Joe Biden will convene a COVID-19 Summit during the UN General Assembly on September 22nd. The White House is asking world leaders, civil society, industry and philanthropists to make commitments to vaccinate the world, save lives and establish a health security financing mechanism.

The Biden White House is focusing on four main themes:

  • Vaccinate the World by enhancing equitable access to vaccines and getting shots in arms.
  • Save Lives Now by solving the oxygen crisis, and making tests, therapeutics and PPE more available.
  • Build Back Better by establishing a sustainable health security financing mechanism, and global leadership for emerging threats.
  • Calling the World to Account by aligning around targets, tracking progress, and supporting one another in fulfilling our commitments.

“The summit shows how important it is for us to act quickly,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the Jubilee USA Network. “Biden knows that if we don’t move global vaccine distribution forward this year, we’ll lose more lives and our economy will suffer across the US and around the world.”

Read more here

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