WTO reviews vaccine patents and pandemic response options

A proposal in front of the World Trade Organization could make it easier for countries to access COVID vaccines. This week the global trade body reviews the proposal to waive pharmaceutical vaccine patents as part of a menu of trade pandemic response policies. 

“Not enough vaccines are getting to developing countries,” noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. “Part of the solution is supporting countries to produce the vaccines that they and other countries desperately need."

According to the United Nations, wealthy countries received 82% of COVID vaccine doses, while poor nations received less than 1%. The US government supports WTO action to temporarily waive vaccine patents. The WTO is not expected to act on the proposal until the fall.

“Every moment we delay acting, means more lives lost and more countries face prolonged economic crises,” said LeCompte.

Read about the WTO COVID vaccine patent waiver process here.

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IMF extends zero-interest lending to poor countries

IMF Can Sell Gold Reserves to Extend Aid to Developing Countries

Washington DC – The IMF announced increased zero-interest lending for poor countries. IMF member countries further committed to investigate additional options to extend pandemic aid through 2029, including the selling of IMF gold reserves.

“Poor countries need more support to confront the health and economic devastation caused by the coronavirus,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. "While the IMF action is helpful, it still falls short of delivering the support developing countries need." 

The Fund's announcement means zero-interest poor country lending increases through the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust. Last year the IMF facility boosted lending for poor country COVID response. An IMF paper listed a limited sale of IMF gold reserves as a way to meet funding shortfalls.

“In the past IMF gold reserves were sold to support poor countries," stated LeCompte. LeCompte's organization Jubilee USA organized nearly 270 religious and development groups to sign a letter to the IMF calling for COVID response aid including the selling of IMF gold. "Most of the world's people face incredible suffering because of the pandemic. All funding options must be on the table."

Read Jubilee USA's IMF COVID response letter with nearly 270 signatories here.

Read the IMF policy paper on zero-interest lending here.

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WPFW features Olivia Engling in a segment at the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access

WPFW 89.3FM's AfricaNow! with Mwiza Munthali features Jubilee USA's Olivia Engling speaking at the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Access. Engling speaks on actions to address global COVID-19 vaccine access. Click here to listen to the episode from 47:52 to 49:58.

AfricaNow! Jul. 21, 2021 Voices for COVID Vaccine Access

By Mwiza Munthali

Selected Statements from Olivia Engling

"In order to recover, we must move forward together. Protecting our neighbors protects us, both locally and internationally. We live in a global world, where our actions and inactions impact people everywhere."

"Our faith traditions call on us to care for the sick and respond to the needs of the poor in our society. Thus, as people of faith, we call on President Biden and other key decision-makers to share the knowledge, technology and intellectual property to make safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, including through multilateral technology sharing initiatives."

"Through scientists’ God-given talents, their expertise and lots of hard work, there are vaccines, vaccines which many of us here have taken, that enable us to live fuller, freer and safer lives. But God gives through us, not just to us.  We are called to be stewards and must steward this life-saving technology for the good of all."

"While vaccine donations are helpful, the solution, the way out of the pandemic lies in enabling more countries to produce and procure vaccines."

"We call on G7 countries to find consensus on a broad TRIPS waiver to support scaled-up production and procurement of vaccines and all pharmaceutical and medical products needed to protect the health and lives of all, but especially the most vulnerable."

"This situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes and we need to take unprecedented action - action that is effective, global and immediate."

Click here to listen to the episode from 47:52 to 49:58.

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Eric LeCompte quoted in the Khaleej Times on World Bank's crisis response

Eric LeCompte was quoted in the Khaleej Times on the World Bank's largest-ever crisis response of $157 billion to help fight COVID-19. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

World Bank Group deploys over $157b to fight Covid

By Issac John

The World Bank Group has deployed over $157 billion — its largest-ever crisis response yet — to fight the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health, economic and social fronts during the past 15 months.

This “unprecedented level of support” represents an increase of more than 60 percent over the 15-month period prior to the pandemic, the bank said on Monday.

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious-affiliated development group Jubilee USA Network, said that the IMF action would allow developing countries to immediately receive more than $200 billion in support.

“Wealthy countries who receive emergency reserves they don’t need should transfer those resources to developing countries struggling through the pandemic,” LeCompte said.

 

Read more here. 

 

 

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Puerto Rico Medicaid Funding Advances in Congress

Permanent Fix Needed for 1.5 million US Citizens, Asserts Religious Development Group

Washington DC – Medicaid funding for 1.5 million US citizens living in Puerto Rico expires on September 30, if Congress doesn't act. A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation that Congress could enact to fund the health program for the next five years.

“Poor and vulnerable people living in Puerto Rico rely on Medicaid," said Eric LeCompte the Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. “If Congress does not act quickly, the impact will be devastating for Puerto Rico as the island wrestles with debt crisis, COVID and disaster recovery."

While the federal government contributes a specific percentage of Medicaid expenses for states, Puerto Rico and other US territories receive a smaller, fixed grant amount. 

“While fixing the funding shortfall for five years is critical, Puerto Rico needs a permanent, long-term fix,” shared LeCompte.

In February, Jubilee USA and 19 heads of US and Puerto Rico major religious bodies signed a letter to President Biden asking for expansion and full funding of Medicaid and other child poverty relief programs. The letter signers represent leaders from the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical churches as well as the US and Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities, Caritas and the General Bible Society.

Read Jubilee USA's Puerto Rico Religious Leader Letter to President Biden here.

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Eric LeCompte Featured in Devex on G20's COVID-19 Response

Eric LeCompte is featured in Devex on measures the G20 is taking to respond to COVID-19. Read an excerpt below and click here for the full story.

How the COVID-19 response fared at the G-20

By Adva Saldinger

When finance ministers and central bankers from the G-20 group of nations met last week, they came to agreement on a number of global financial issues, including debt relief and a fiscal response to COVID-19.

But some global development advocates say they fell short on committing to improving coronavirus vaccine distribution.

“The biggest concern now is the lack of political will, political ambition, for the G-20 to tackle the vaccine distribution issue,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director at Jubilee USA Network. The pressure will be on the G-20 to agree on a process for global vaccine access at its October meeting — or risk what the International Monetary Fund has predicted could be a $9 trillion hit to the global economy, he said.

Some governments, such as Germany, have concerns about vaccine-related issues, including waiving intellectual property rights, LeCompte said. Many of those watching the meeting had hoped the G-20 would take action on vaccine production and distribution, given the consequences of a lack of global action. LeCompte said it was “baffling” that the group did not.

And for those reading closely, other language around COVID-19 relief in the statement appeared promising, LeCompte said.

To date, G-20 efforts to respond to the pandemic — notably the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the Common Framework for Debt Treatments Beyond the DSSI — have been limited to low-income countries. Development advocates, civil society organizations, and struggling middle-income countries have been pushing the G-20 and other global organizations, including IMF, to broaden the group of countries eligible for support.

Governments agreed to avoid “premature withdrawal of support measures” and maintained commitments on exchange rates. The group also backed a recent agreement on international tax architecture that includes reallocating profits of multinational enterprises and an effective global minimum corporate tax.

The agreement’s changes for how digital companies can be taxed could raise revenues in lower-income countries, and together they are “one of the most exciting things to see move forward,” LeCompte said.

 

Read more here.

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Front Page Africa Features Jubilee USA Network and Eric LeCompte on the IMF's Approval of Aid to Poor Countries

Eric LeCompte and Jubilee USA featured in Front Page Africa on the IMF's decision to allocate $650 billion global reserve funds, $350 million of which would benefit Liberia. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

Liberia to Benefit US$350M from IMF US$16Bn Aid to Poor Countries for Post-Covid Recovery

By 

Jubilee USA Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates debt relief for poor countries, praised the move by the I.M.F. and called on wealthy countries to do more to help.

“This is the biggest creation of emergency reserve funds that we’ve ever seen, and developing countries will immediately receive more than $200 billion,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network. “Wealthy countries who receive emergency reserves they don’t need should transfer those resources to developing countries struggling through the pandemic.”

The I.M.F., the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization have created a new vaccine task force and called for an additional $50 billion investment to broaden access to supplies. The groups have also called on G20 countries to set a goal of having 40 percent of their populations vaccinated by the end of this year and 60 percent by the middle of next year.

 

Read more here.

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Reuters features Eric LeCompte on the need for global vaccine access

Eric LeCompte is featured in Reuters on the need for universal vaccine access. Read an excerpt below and click here for the full story,

Virus variants threaten global recovery, G20 warns

By Gavin Jones, Leigh Thomas

An upsurge in new coronavirus variants and poor access to vaccines in developing countries threaten the global economic recovery, finance ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies warned on Saturday.

Italy said it the G20 would return to the issue of vaccine funding for poor countries ahead of a Rome summit in October and that new variants was an area that needed to be looked at. It did not give further details.

“We must agree on a process for everyone on the planet to be able to access vaccines. If we don’t, the IMF predicts that the global economy will lose $9 trillion,” religious development organization Jubilee USA Network said.

It was referring to an IMF forecast that international cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines could speed world economic recovery and add $9 trillion to global income by 2025.

Read more here.

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KPFA Features Eric LeCompte for Segment on the G20 Finance Ministers' Meeting

KPFA Evening News' David Rosenberg interviews Eric Lecompte on how the G20 Finance Ministers' meeting addressed global COVID vaccine access. Click here to listen to the episode from 11:11 to 13:56. 

The KPFA Evening News (Saturday) – July 10, 2021

By David Rosenberg

Selected Statements from Eric LeCompte

"There are multiple issues around global COVID response that the G20 is considering this weekend in Italy. The issue where we're seeing a lack of political will and ambition is around global vaccine distribution and production."

"If we don't come to an agreement this year on how we can adequately get vaccines to everyone in the world, the IMF predicts that we will lose $9 trillion in the global economy and we'll continue to see mutations from the virus that will infect those who are already vaccinated in the North."

"The big issue where the G20 should have done more but failed to do so is getting the agreement done on global vaccine access, distribution and production. It leaves any progress on this agreement up to the October G20 meetings that'll be taking place in Italy."

"The most important thing the G20 needs to do is get the financing and resources to support global distribution and production of vaccines. That's where they fell short this meeting." 

 

Click here to listen to the episode from 11:11 to 13:56.

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Jubilee USA Statement on G20 Finance Ministers Meeting and Communiqué

Washington DC - G20 finance ministers and central bank governors met in Venice, Italy, on COVID response, economic recovery, vaccines, debt relief and global tax agreements on July 9-10, 2021.

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network and a United Nations finance expert, releases the following statement on the G20 finance ministers meeting and communiqué:

“While the G20 is making critical progress in many COVID response areas, vaccine distribution and production is not moving quickly enough.

"At the next G20 meetings in October, we must agree on a process for everyone on the planet to be able to access vaccines. If we don't, the IMF predicts that the global economy will lose $9 trillion.

“Rising US interest rates mean more countries could be unable to pay their debts and the G20 and IMF will deal with even more defaults.

“The G20 is asserting that the private sector must offer adequate debt relief for any countries that apply for the G20 debt relief process.

“We welcome the G20's endorsement of creating $650 billion in emergency reserve funds or Special Drawing Rights by the end of the summer. Developing countries will receive more than $200 billion in new resources when the IMF takes a final vote.

"More than $400 billion of these new Special Drawing Rights reserve funds will go to wealthy countries.

"The G20 calls for an ambitious target for donating the Special Drawing Rights that rich countries receive to vulnerable countries. Unfortunately, there is no concrete amount for how much wealthy countries should donate to vulnerable countries.

"We must quickly agree on Special Drawing Rights donation vehicles to support all developing and vulnerable countries to access these resources to fight poverty, climate change and the coronavirus health crisis.

“The G20 is right to call on development banks to do more, but the G20 must also be clear on how we can inject much more capital into these banks so they can do more.

“The G20 agreement on global minimum corporate and digital tax is incredibly exciting progress on closing loopholes for tax evasion and avoidance.

“In upcoming tax agreement negotiations, we must do more to increase the benefits for developing countries.

“The G20 is aligning climate change action goals with the Paris Climate Agreement. This will help spur greater action during the November climate meetings the United Kingdom is hosting.

“International cooperation on climate targets and carbon prices needs to account for the impacts on the most vulnerable countries and people.” 

Read the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting Communiqué here.

Read Jubilee USA's G20 Finance Ministers press release here.

Read Jubilee USA's response to the IMF approval of $650 bn in Special Drawing Rights here.

 

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AP Features Eric LeCompte on the Creation of $650 Billion Global Reserve Funds

AP features Eric LeCompte on the IMF's decision to create $650 billion global reserve funds.

Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

IMF approves $650 billion expansion to fight pandemic

By Martin Crutsinger

Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious-affiliated development group Jubilee USA Network, said that the IMF action would allow developing countries to immediately receive more than $200 billion in support.

“Wealthy countries who receive emergency reserves they don't need should transfer those resources to developing countries struggling through the pandemic,” LeCompte said.

More than six months after vaccines became available, reported COVID-19 deaths worldwide have fallen to about 7,800 each day, after topping out at over 18,000 a day in January. The World Health Organization recorded just under 54,000 deaths last week, the lowest weekly total since last October.

However, COVID-19 has illuminated global inequities as deaths worldwide climbed to 4 million, a milestone recorded Wednesday by Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccination drives are barely getting started in Africa and other desperately poor corners of the world because of extreme shortages of shots.

To fund the spending, the IMF will expand its Special Drawing Rights, a currency reserve that can be tapped by IMF member countries.

 

Read more here.

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New York Times Features Jubilee USA and Eric LeCompte on IMF's $650 Billion Aid Plan

Eric LeCompte and Jubilee USA featured in the New York Times on the IMF's backing of $650 billion in global reserve funds to help developing countries. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story.

I.M.F. Board Backs $650 Billion Aid Plan to Help Poor Countries

By Alan Rappeport 

The International Monetary Fund took a step on Friday toward easing widening global inequality and helping poor nations access vaccines, saying that its executive board approved a plan to issue $650 billion worth of reserve funds, which countries can use to purchase vaccines, finance health care and pay down debt.

Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit organization that advocates for debt relief for poor countries, praised the move by the I.M.F. and called on wealthy countries to do more to help.

“This is the biggest creation of emergency reserve funds that we’ve ever seen and developing countries will immediately receive more than $200 billion,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network. “Wealthy countries who receive emergency reserves they don’t need should transfer those resources to developing countries struggling through the pandemic.”

 

Read more here.

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