Press Release: COVID Defense Act Must Include Accountability Measures

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For Immediate Release
September 30, 2021

COVID Defense Act Must Include Accountability Measures

Washington, DC – Today, the “COVID Defense Act” was formally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Mark Pocan. If passed, this act will provide additional resources to ensure global access to vaccines as part of the U.S. national security strategy by rescinding “1.3 percent of total defense spending” and authorizing “the same amount for international COVID vaccine production and distribution.” The Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), an organizational supporter of this bill, calls on Members of Congress to ensure that if passed, the act will also include measures to keep kleptocrats in check through accountability mechanisms.

“While AFJN applauds Representative Pocan for looking to the Defense Budget to open up new avenues of funds for COVID relief and urges other members to support this bill, any funds allocated must be attached to accountability measures” said Jacques Bahati, AFJN policy analyst and accountability working group chair of the Advocacy Network for Africa. Bahati continues “This money must not be another handout to kleptocrats and tyrants.”

Every year African people lose billions of dollars due to corruption where leaders take monies needed for goods and services and move it into external bank accounts. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFF), Africa has lost more than “$1 trillion over the last 50 years” which equaled “all the official development assistance the continent received during the same period.” If Africa stops IFFs then they have the potential to gain “$89 billion annually.”

“It’s not enough to give money, it’s more important to account for the money. It is up to the lawmakers to ensure these mechanisms of transparency and accountability are attached to the Department of Defense funds used for any aid efforts” continued Bahati.

The threat of COVID-19 to American lives and the global community is real as Rep. Pocan noted in his August press release “We cannot bomb our way out of a global pandemic […] Right now, COVID is the greatest risk to our national security as well as the world’s security.” The U.S. and global community must join hands and find a common global strategy that includes vaccine access for the developing countries.

“Rep. Pocan’s quote captures the true understanding of the security implications posed by COVID-19” said Bahati “for if COVID-19 is not dealt with properly on a global scale it will continue to mutate and newer vaccine-resistant strains of the coronavirus will continue to wreak havoc in the U.S., taking lives and impacting our way of life, our economy, and our national security.”

Read Rep. Pocan’s August 18, 2021 press release “‘Pocan Introduces The “COVID Defense Act’ to Direct Just Over 1 Percent of Pentagon Spending Towards Vaccinating 30% of theWorld’s Poorest Populations.”

Read the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development February 16, 2021 article “UNCTAD, UNECA help African countries measure illicit financial flows

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The Africa Faith & Justice Network is a faith-based, non-partisan coalition of 28 US-based religious communities of men and women. Inspired by the Gospel and informed by Catholic Social Teaching, AFJN seeks to educate and advocate for just relations with Africa and to work in partnership with African peoples as they engage in the struggle for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.
www.afjn.org

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Available for Interview:
Jacques Bahati, Policy Analyst, AFJN
Bahati@afjn.org | 202-817-3670

For interviews contact
Lydia Andrews, Communications Manager
lydia@afjn.org | 847-772-2305

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