Some crazy facts:
- It requires registering less information to start a company in the US than to get a library card
- Approximately 1 trillion dollars are funneled out of the developing world, primarily through shell companies that are not registered to any specific person.
- Millions of people around the world don’t have access to life-saving vaccines that allow them to reach their full potential.
One of my favorite quotes sums up much of my outlook on life, “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” (Abbey, 1990) Edward Abbey wrote this a year after I was born in the book A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, working to draw a line and establish a limit on the exploitation of the world. This last week I had the privilege of being able to put into action the sentiment that deep engagement with understanding the roots of the inequalities that shape our world causes. Through a connection with a professor, I was able to volunteer with the ONE campaign, which is a global movement that works to inspire action to pressure governments to respond to extreme poverty. To put action behind the sentiment, which results from conversations regarding the global inequality and environmental crisis that we confront which we engage in through MAIS program.
We were advocating for two measures, the Illicit Cash Act, which seeks to require all companies to register who will receive the benefit of the actions that the company takes. The scandal of the Panama Papers, in which a complicated web of more than 214,000 shell companies were investigated reveals the need to take such action. To give a glimpse of the impact, according to The Namibian, a gentleman Benny Steimentz owes more than $700,000 to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leon; he is worth more than 6 billion dollars. (Khadija Sharife; Silas Gbandia (April 26, 2016). “Sierra Leone’s flawed diamond trade.”). The allowance of privacy for shuffling this money around has allowed for, human trafficking, funneling of money into violent entities, drug schemes, and a slew of illicit activity. This scandal went a long way to illuminating some of the ‘how’ corruption takes place and the role countries such as the US and Switzerland who maintain the highest extent of privacy globally play in this. Although the Illicit Cash Act does not purport to be a silver bullet for solving the problem of corruption, it moves the needle in the role that this country plays in those schemes to a more honest position.
The other initiative that the 160 volunteers who gathered to meet in Washington, DC, gathered to discuss with our representatives was the GAVI alliance. This is an initiative that seeks to address a market failure in which the world’s poorest countries don’t have the financial resources to individually buy vaccinations for their populations. The alliance pools these countries together and through global cooperation in which the US is the third-largest contributor the program’ lumps’ these countries together, which drives the price of producing the vaccines down and provides the resources to pay for these vaccines. This program which began in 2000 has vaccinated 700 million children (WHO/ UNICEF 2019). According to the modeling, this has saved 13 million lives. We were advocating for the continuation of funding this initiative of providing a shot of opportunity.
It was an incredible experience to hold meetings in the halls of Congress, and being that our representative at USF is Nancy Pelosi to hold a meeting at the top of the Capitol building was an experience I will never forget. The California team met with Senatorial staffers from the offices of Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein, and I was lucky enough to lead the meeting with the office of Nancy Pelosi being the constituent of that office. Although our democracy may be flawed in many ways, the willingness of our leaders to hold meetings with the public is a somewhat unique part of our democracy that is worth celebrating.