Posted on October 29, 2009 by Ken Hackett, Member of MCC's Board of Directors and President of Catholic Relief Services
As I complete my service on the MCC Board of Directors, many thoughts go through my mind. I think of the early days when, with personnel numbering in the dozens, MCC was bubbling with the energy and enthusiasm of a start-up enterprise. I think of the initial commitment of Secretary of State Powell and senior administration officials in launching this grand experiment, and the solemn responsibility to which I, and my fellow private sector board member, Christine Todd Whitman, took in ensuring that the voice of civil society and beneficiaries were represented. I think of how MCC matured under the steady leadership of Ambassador John Danilovich and how the Board really came into its own under Secretary Rice, providing guidance to MCC management and upholding the MCC model through country selection, compact approval, and in the rare but unfortunate cases, suspension.
I think of the camaraderie that I have built with my fellow private sector board members, Mssrs. Craner, Patricof, and Frist, and am especially pleased that our work during the transition to a new administration has paid off with the full support of Secretary Clinton and the incoming Cabinet members. In a few short months, the Obama Administration has developed an appreciation for the value of an independent Board that serves as a model for inter-agency cooperation, drawing upon the experience and perspective of external stakeholders. I wish CEO nominee Daniel Yohannes all the best in maintaining this model while placing his and the administrations personal stamp on the agency, should the Senate confirm him.
When I see how far the MCC has come, particularly in beginning to realize its vision as an ambitious initiative emphasizing the principles of country ownership, the host country governments accountability to its own people through democratic reforms, a commitment to fight corruption, and investments in the social well being of its citizens, I think further back—to the time when I first started in development over thirty years ago. When I was stationed overseas on the front lines of this work, my colleagues and I used to gather after a day’s work—around a fire in some small village or back at the hotel bar in a bigger town—and talk about what development should look like, imagining beneficiaries deciding what assistance they would need to earn a livelihood and then playing an active role in developing and delivering that assistance. Little did I realize that three decades later, the U.S. Government would embrace these basic development principles: local ownership and community participation. And furthermore, that I would be asked to take an advisory role in the development of this concept.
MCC has come far in its five years. While it pursued an ambitious path, it also responded to the concerns of many in the development community to incorporate much of the valuable knowledge and best practices already present. MCC has taken great strides in working with USAID, collaborating through the Threshold program, communicating with the field missions, and heeding the counsel of the USAID Administrator, who plays an active role on the MCC Board. From my personal visits to MCC programs and the reports Im hearing from the field, MCC is achieving progress. Projects are moving forward and the MCC Effect is having a continued and sustained impact, not only within MCC’s current partners, but also in countries striving to undertake valuable reforms to obtain eligibility. On the Board, we’ve come to realize that for many countries, demonstrating accountability to ones people serves as a valuable signal to donors, investors, and the community at large, increasingly viewed as a form of currency that extends beyond simple eligibility for one form of U.S. foreign assistance.
One thing is clear—and this is reflected in the important dynamics of the public-private makeup of MCCs Board—is that civil society has an indispensible role to play in development. No matter how dedicated governments are to uplifting the poor, their actions will never succeed unless businessmen, church leaders, community organizers and the like are active participants in the planning, design, and implementation of programs. MCC has succeeded admirably in incorporating the views of civil society through initial consultation and project monitoring. As the civil society Board member, I was able to draw upon an extensive field network of development practitioners, who combined technical expertise with a strong understanding of community needs and the cultural context so critical to successful development. I hope that my successor on the Board shares this perspective. I have great confidence that my colleagues on the Board will uphold MCC’s tradition of ensuring that the needs of the beneficiaries are addressed through the robust participation of civil society.
I am going to miss MCC, but I leave knowing that it is in good hands and headed in the right direction, which is confirmed by the positive results we are already starting to see.
Posted on October 27, 2009 by Aaron Sherinian, Managing Director, Public Affairs
Its been an exciting few days for MCC. Resident Country Directors (RCDs) and Deputy Resident Country Directors (DRCDs) gathered from around the world for their annual conference last week to share best practices in poverty reduction. This gave us an opportunity to hear firsthand about how the U.S. Government is helping stimulate economic growth through MCC programs.
- Read the transcript from the public forum when RCDs talked about developments underway in Ghana, El Salvador, and Georgia.
- Listen to Vince Ruddy, RCD in El Salvador, explain progress underway during his interview with El Mundo al Dia (in Spanish).
- Listen to RCD Jim McNicholas interview on Voice of America Georgia about the status of MCCs compact (.mp3 download, in Georgian).
- Listen to RCD Alex Russin’s interview about the status of Armenia’s MCC compact (in Armenian).
- Read a news report featuring Morocco’s RCD Muneera Salem-Murdock.
- Read the perspective of Gautam Ramnath about some of the key findings from the meetings.
These voices from the field provide important insights that highlight how Americas investments in development, when they focus on country-owned solutions, are bearing tangible results that matter to the worlds poor.
Posted on October 22, 2009 by Gautam Ramnath, Associate Director for Business Development, Department of Compact Implementation
This week, MCC has been hosting all 19 compact country field personnel in Washington, D.C. for our annual Resident/Deputy Resident Country Directors Conference. As we turn the corner into another fiscal year, preparations are well underway for setting priorities and objectives for the next year and for a 10 year horizon. This years conference is an essential part of this process, as it not only provides our Resident Country Directors (RCDs) and Deputy Resident Country Directors (DRCD) with the opportunity to offer input into the process, but also provides them a chance for face-to-face exchanges with their DC colleagues, the Hill, the donor community, and the traditional and innovative media. (For example, we just completed an interesting bloggers breakfast.
Who are these people?
What we have seen underlined, commended and replicated by others is our country-led approach. It is for this reason that our field presence is small, but efficient—usually just the RCD, DRCD and a couple of locally employed staff. Though limited in size, the duties of the resident country missions are substantial and diverse. And this is what distinguishes our field staff. They are, in one, finance and procurement directors, agricultural, education, health and infrastructure managers, PR and communications specialists, policy developers, investment promotion programmers, economists and auditors—all wrapped up in one diplomatic package. This list is not exhaustive, but gives a sense of the myriad issues that our frontline faces confront at any given moment of their day.
Learning is not a spectator sport
What I have appreciated, as both a participant in previous years and now as the conferences organizer, is the emphasis on MCC as a learning and living unit. Coming back to Washington after three years in the field representing MCC, I appreciate the fact that a majority of the messages being sent from the field are truly acknowledged and implemented so as to make field operations more efficient. Taking such action to feedback is an integral reason why MCC has successfully met its targets for disbursements, commitments and performance during this past fiscal year. This is how MCC continues to refine operations to deliver on our mission to reduce poverty through economic growth. But, learning this is not enough.
What is this conference doing about it?
This years conference has been 100 percent field driven. The agenda was prioritized by the field and includes such main programmatic topics, among others, as second compacts, compact closure, compact development, procurement, contract management, the fraud and corruption policy, managing targets and milestones, and improving internal sector efficiencies. It also includes in-depth discussions into other subjects, such as innovation in investment promotion, impact evaluation, donor coordination, and private sector partnerships.
But there’s room for more.
Interestingly, the agenda also incorporates small group working sessions on how to improve some commonly repeated concerns from the field over the last two to three years and ideas on how we can improve our effectiveness. By assessing what has been proposed before, learning from it and combining that with current realities and a pinch of creativity, each group will propose executable recommendations to MCC’s management for prioritization.
In reflecting on the conference, some interesting trends are emerging. Besides providing the traditional outlet for aligning multiple field issues and holding frank exchanges about program realities, this years conference has facilitated, via its iterative process, true mentorship among field staff, especially across countries just starting implementation and new employees. We are also seeing a diversity in those who are taking leadership roles within the conference—more junior and senior staff, new employees and older ones, countries from all over the globe. We are seeing increased participation by key MCC host country mission staff members as more mature compacts transition toward closeout. And, we are seeing a more anticipatory, collaborative and open-minded approach in combined presentations and problem solving between the field and DC staff members.
These trends are a result of our learning.
I truly hope that this years meeting serves as a benchmark for future evolutions of the RCD/DRCD conference as we continue to develop newer ways to learn and better accomplish our mission to reduce poverty through growth.
Gautam Ramnath served as the Deputy Resident Country Director in Mali for three years and is currently Associate Director for Business Development in Compact Development.
Posted on October 16, 2009 by Darius Mans, Acting Chief Executive Officer
As the international community prepares to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty tomorrow, this is an important opportunity to take stock of MCCs ongoing commitment to help reduce global poverty. In partnership with countries worldwide, we continue to measure the impact of MCCs results-focused investments totaling more than $7 billion.
What we see is a promising start. To date, more than 87,677 farmers have been trained worldwide, and MCC-funded programs have made $29 million in agricultural and rural loans possible. More than 12,236 hectares of land are under production, helping farmers increase their food security and take care of their families. We have completed the construction of two new roads in Cape Verde, the first roads to be completed by MCC in Africa. Around the world, we have more than 1,177 kilometers of roads under construction, helping communities reach markets and critical services, like schools and health clinics. New schools have been built in Ghana and Burkina Faso, and we already know through an independent impact evaluation that both enrollment rates and test scores increased in Burkina Faso. Be sure to bookmark and revisit often the dedicated results section of our website to track the progress we are making.
Another dimension of MCCs progress is our work toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Many of the events surrounding the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty focus on the MDGs. MCC is one smart tool the Obama Administration is using to help countries reach these targets by 2015. This means supporting not only country-driven programs that specifically address the MDGs but also country-led policy reforms that are essential for their sustainability well beyond 2015. I invite you to read more about how MCCs assistance is helping countries reach the MDGs.
The unfolding progress against poverty was the topic of a fruitful discussion yesterday when communicators from the international development community met at MCC to brainstorm ways of highlighting results.
And, results in the fight against global poverty will certainly be the underlying theme next week as MCCs Resident Country Directors and Deputy Resident Country Directors, serving in MCC partner countries worldwide, gather in Washington for their annual conference. This gathering gives them an opportunity to engage in technical training as well as intense discussions about lessons learned and best practices. It also gives our stakeholders a firsthand occasion to hear directly from these individuals about the progress underway to improve the standard of living for the worlds poor. Join us Wednesday, October 21 for a public forum with these directors from Africa, Eurasia, and Central America.