Meeting Agenda Had Included Vaccine Access for Developing Countries
Washington DC – The World Trade Organization postponed a meeting where trade ministers planned to decide on vaccine access and production issues for developing countries. The meeting, scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland, was canceled because of new travel restrictions due to the COVID Omicron variant. Waiving pharmaceutical company patents on COVID vaccines and treatments featured prominently on the agenda.
“The World Trade Organization can help ensure that everyone around the world can access coronavirus vaccines and treatments," said Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. "In spite of the lack of an in-person ministers meeting, the WTO can still take action on waiving vaccine patents."
The highest WTO decision-making body in between ministerial meetings is the General Council.
The IMF estimated that failure to achieve a 70% vaccination rate globally by mid-2022 will result in more than $5 trillion in global economic losses over the next five years. While vaccination rates in high-income countries approach 70% of the population, less than 5% of people in low-income countries received even one dose, according to a group of World Health Organization experts.
"Distributing vaccines is essential to stop food shortages and prevent economic shocks," stated LeCompte.
In the summer, Jubilee USA organized leaders of the Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ Churches and AFL-CIO to meet US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai on the vaccine and trade proposals. Tai supports temporarily waiving COVID vaccine patents.
Call the Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators. You will need to call twice to reach each of your US Senators. The switchboard is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to leave a message for your Senator.
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Once you are connected, ask to leave a time-sensitive message for your Senator.
"Thank you for taking my call. I live in your state, my name and address is______________. The Build Back Better Act contains provisions that will help Puerto Rico recover from debt, disasters and COVID crises and tackle a nearly 60% child poverty rate. I want the Senator to promote recovery and opportunity for the people of the island by:
1.) Supporting Supplemental Security Income payments and child tax credits that could benefit more than 300,000 low-income people;
2.) Fully funding a permanent expansion of the healthcare Medicaid program;
3.) Passing measures to increase manufacturing jobs in Puerto Rico."
The National Catholic Reporter praised Jubilee USA's work in support of more social services funding for Puerto Rico. Read an excerpt below and find the full article here.
Links: The Rittenhouse verdict; Catholic Worker reaction to Archbishop Gomez; Bosnia on the verge of breakup
Our friends at Jubilee USA are not exactly unsung heroes: Many people know of their good work. But the special interest they have shown for the suffering of the people of Puerto Rico, combined with both their expertise about fiscal issues and their deep commitment to Catholic social doctrine, has made the organization a real hero to the island's people. This press release, with links to their letter to members of Congress, looks at the provisions of the Build Back Better bill, which will help alleviate the poverty in Puerto Rico.
Read the full article here.
Washington DC – The House of Representatives voted to increase Medicaid funding and incentives to support manufacturing jobs in Puerto Rico as part of the Build Back Better Act.
“This legislation means that Puerto Rico can access more resources that the island desperately needs,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, which worked on debt and disaster relief for the island since 2015. "Faced with high poverty rates, debt crisis and natural disasters, Puerto Rico can really use the aid."
The Build Back Better Act provides Supplemental Security Income disability payments to Puerto Rico, benefiting 300,000 Puerto Rico residents. The bill includes the territory in child tax relief increases for the states. The legislation now heads to the Senate and if passed could be enacted into law this year.
In February, 20 major religious leaders representing Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ and Evangelical Churches wrote to President Biden to support Puerto Rico. Leaders of the National and Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities and the General Bible Society also signed the letter to Biden.
Read the Jubilee USA Puerto Rico and US Religious Leaders Letter to President Biden here.
Read the Puerto Rico Religious Leader Stimulus Letter to Congress here.
Washington DC – Two hundred countries finalized an agreement during COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland to limit global warming. In 2009, developed countries promised $100 billion of annual climate funding to developing countries by 2020. According to the OECD, funding estimates will not be met before 2023. The agreement expresses regret about the missed finance target and calls for increasing support for developing countries.
“The climate summit agreement recognizes the urgency of reaching the $100 billion target for developing countries and the reality that more support is needed,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. "Debt relief can be an important resource for us to reach the levels of support developing countries need."
The Glasgow outcome noted concern with heightened debts as developing countries respond to the COVID crisis. The agreement asks development banks and lenders to consider climate vulnerabilities in determining access to aid and global reserve funds known as Special Drawing Rights.
One provision advocated by developing countries failed to make it in the final COP26 agreement. An agreement failed on compensation for developing countries experiencing damage from extreme climate-driven weather events. Instead the summit outcome foresees a new body to offer technical assistance for developing countries combating the effects of climate change.
“Many developing countries are dealing with more frequent natural disasters," stated LeCompte. "We need processes to support vulnerable countries as they face more extreme weather events caused by climate change."
The deal proposes setting a new climate finance and aid goal by 2025. Some countries believe more than a trillion dollars is needed.
Read Jubilee USA's press release on climate funding and COP26 here.
Read Jubilee's new research on climate risks and COP26 here.
Washington DC – As the climate summit approaches its final days in Scotland, 200 countries negotiate an agreement to combat climate change. A key outstanding item is enacting the 2015 Paris agreement pledge to provide $100 billion to developing countries annually to deal with climate challenges. The OECD forecast that the financing pledge won't be met until 2023.
“Developing countries are dealing with a range of climate driven challenges from natural disasters to food shortages,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. “We can't wait years for developing countries to get funding to combat the climate crisis. The crisis is now.”
During COP26, Jubilee USA pushed world leaders to consider debt relief and using IMF emergency currency, or Special Drawing Rights, to fund the climate financing targets.
“World leaders should be looking at a range of ways to support funding for developing countries to deal with the climate crisis,” noted LeCompte.
China and the US released a declaration pledging cooperation for a successful conference outcome and recognizing the importance of the $100 billion commitment.
Mexican newspaper Omnia featured the Atlas of Vulnerability by Jubilee USA and LATINDADD in an article about how existing crises are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read an excerpt below (translated from Spanish) and find the full article here.
About Half of Mexicans Are Impoverished, Study Reveals
Latindadd concludes that Latin America and the Caribbean is the region most damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In accordance with Laitindadd, poverty acts as an amplifying factor for the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the study, the more impactful vulnerabilities in Mexico come from the low growth of tax revenues, economic loss linked to natural disasters, low levels of savings, inequality in access to telecommunications and poor health infrastructure.
The document also measured other important items such as income inequality and wealth, of which Mexico is in the middle of the pack, with 45 points in the first case, and 77 in the second (the higher the greater inequality). The nation with the most contrasts is Brazil, with 53.4 and 84.9 percent, respectively.
Read more here.
Mexican newspaper La Silla Rota featured the Atlas of Vulnerability by Jubilee USA and LATINDADD in an article about how existing crises are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read an excerpt below (translated from Spanish) and find the full article here.
Mexico, Poor or Middle-Class Country?
According to the report entitled Vulnerability Atlas, the pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean documents that 48.8 percent of the Mexican population lives in poverty, while in Honduras 64.7 and in Guatemala, 59.3 percent. With this, Mexico is far from the countries that registered the best conditions, since Chile, Uruguay and Panama only have 10.8, 11.6 and 20.7 percent of their respective populations in precarious income.
According to Latindadd, poverty acts as an amplifying factor of the economic and health impacts left by the covid-19 pandemic.
Read the full article here.
Cronica Digital mentioned Eric LeCompte and Aldo Caliari in an article discussing Jubilee USA and Latindadd's new Pandemic Vulnerability Map. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.
Latin America and the Caribbean is the Region in the World Most Effected by the COVID-19 Pandemic
Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte noted that the pandemic affected Latin America and the Caribbean more by factors such as dependence on tourism, decimated by shutdown; pre-existing levels of poverty and inequality; large informal sectors; and narrow tax bases.
LeCompte warned that only countries categorized by the World Bank as low-income can access emergency debt relief and other measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
For Latindadd and Jubilee, this approach can dangerously underestimate the way middle-income countries are suffering the damage of the pandemic.
“We need more action from rich countries so that developing countries can face the crisis,” said Jubilee USA Policy Director Aldo Caliari.
Read the full article here.
Counter Punch featured Eric LeCompte in an article about the need for greater commitments from wealthier countries in the fight against climate crises. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.
How the Wealthiest Countries Schemed to Avoid Economic Commitments at COP26
Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, explained to me in an interview that developing countries are suffering from the fact that “their natural resources were taken during the industrialization period that took place in Europe and the United States in the 1800s and the 1900s, fueling the climate crisis.”
Most of these same nations were left out of the recent climate discussions by the G20, as they are too poor to be considered members of the exclusive club. It remains to be seen if these nations will be able to extract greater commitments at the COP26 meeting.
LeCompte reflected, “it seems right now that there is a lot of despair among countries in terms of if it’s going to be possible to fulfill” pledges like a $100 billion financing pledge to help poorer nations combat climate change. Indeed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared on Twitter as the summit ended, “While I welcome the G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled.”
Read more here.
Paraguay-based newspaper Última Hora featured the Atlas of Vulnerability by Jubilee USA and LATINDADD in an article about the challenges Latin American countries face in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Read an excerpt below (translated from Spanish) and find the full article here.
Address vulnerabilities to transition to development
This week the Vulnerabilities Atlas was presented, which consists of an interactive platform created by two civil society organizations –Latindadd and Jubilee USA Network– with information from Latin American countries with important indicators of different dimensions of people's lives, such as work, health, education, social protection, the macroeconomic and environmental context of each of the countries.
Paraguay is incorporated into the Atlas with information that comprehensively and holistically shows the main characteristics of its socioeconomic trajectory in recent years.
For the World Bank, our country positioned itself on the international stage as an upper-middle-income country, thanks to the significant growth in GDP in recent years.
However, this positive trajectory of GDP for more than a decade was insufficient to guarantee quality jobs and sufficient tax resources that would allow for universal health, education, social protection policies and effective productive development instruments.
Read the full article here.
Eric LeCompte spoke with Sonali Kolhatkar, host of Rising Up With Sonali, in an episode entitled "Assessing the G-20 Summit on Taxation, Pandemic, and More". Read an excerpt below and listen to the full episode here.
Assessing the G-20 Summit on Taxation, Pandemic, and More
Selected Statements from Eric LeCompte
"At Jubilee, we look at what the structural policies of the financial system are which perpetuate inequality. We look at what the processes are that either we lack or the policies for why we have extreme poverty in the world, and one of those is debt. Countries have debts that are so high they're unable to pay for social services."
"Countries that were really teetering on the edge before the pandemic are now fully in crisis. We're seeing food shortages around the world. We're seeing significant increases in job loss, with 400m jobs lost mostly in developing middle-income countries."
"COP26 is certainly an important meeting, and it's happening right after the G-20. I think one of the pieces in terms of bold, ambitious commitments that should come out of COP is that it has to influence the G-20 and the IMF, because these institutions will make some of the most significant decisions regarding our planet and climate change over the next 5 years."
Listen to the full episode here.