Eric LeCompte is the executive director of Jubilee USA. Millennial editor Robert Christian interviewed him on his work to address global inequality and build an economy that serves all persons, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
What does Jubilee USA do?
Ahead of the Jubilee Year, when Christian churches were preparing to celebrate the 2000th Anniversary of Christ’s birth, global religious leaders called us to celebrate by tackling the root causes of poverty. Pope John Paul ll encouraged us to reflect on the true scriptural meaning of Jubilee during the Church’s Jubilee 2000 celebration. Jubilee is a central them in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The Jubilee story starts in Genesis. God loves us so much that God created a resource rich world for us to share in seven days. We are closest to the Creator when we are sharing those resources amongst us. Then we have the early law books of scripture that attempt to legislate how we live according to Jubilee laws. Deuteronomy and Leviticus lay out how we can be in right relationship with one another and our God. They dictate that every seven years we should forgive debts, let the land rest, and set free slaves. They establish a set of laws that protect all of us from having too little or too much. Then the prophets come to remind the people they are no longer living according to the laws of Jubilee. And then in Luke, in the first public act of our Lord, He reads from Isaiah about setting captives free and proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s Favor or the great Jubilee year. This is seven times seven years where there is a restoration of equality among all of God’s people.
From the call of Pope John Paul ll and other faith leaders, the Catholic Church took on an incredible leadership role to win debt relief for the world’s poorest countries and move forward greater protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
That’s the story of how Jubilee USA started as an interfaith coalition of Jews, Muslims, and Christians to address the structures that cause poverty and inequality. To this day, we take on US and global policies on debt, tax, trade, and transparency issues. When we address these issues, we impact millions of people living in poverty in the US and across our world. From resolving Puerto Rico’s financial crisis to corporate transparency to student debt, Jubilee USA wins solutions that impact our global community. Ultimately, we are building an economy that serves, protects, and promotes participation of the most vulnerable.
Congressional Quarterly cites our interfaith efforts as the last successful bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill.
What are some of the accomplishments that Jubilee USA has achieved?
We’ve won more than $130 billion in debt relief for the world’s poorest economies. Because of the US and global agreements we’ve won, that $130 billion is invested in schools, hospitals, and other social infrastructure. In Sub Saharan Africa alone, 54 million kids have gone to school who never would have seen the inside of a classroom. Recently, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President, cited Jubilee’s efforts as the reason for economic growth in parts of Africa.
Debt and financial crises often affect the most vulnerable in the most extreme ways. It’s tragic that the global financial crisis punished those who had nothing to do with creating the crisis. Nearly 100 million people, mostly women and children, were cast into extreme poverty because of the crisis. Beyond debt relief, Jubilee USA transforms the debt, tax, and trade policies that cause poverty and inequality. For every 10 dollars in aid developing economies receive, they lose more than150 dollars from debt payments, tax evasion, and corruption.
In the last few years, here are some of the strategic campaigns we’ve won: debt relief in Haiti and the 3 Ebola-impacted West Africa countries, a new International Monetary Fund trust fund to aid poor countries struck by disasters, multiple anti-corruption measures impacting low income countries, super bankruptcy legislation for Puerto Rico, three international agreements to promote responsible lending and stop predatory lending, two victories to keep student loan interest rates low, G7 and G20 agreements to curb tax evasion and corruption, pushing trade agreements that help end poverty, and securing zero interest loans for poor communities. Read More