Posted on November 30, 2009 by Patricia Moser, Director of Health
Tomorrow, we mark the 21st commemoration of World AIDS Day. In 1988, the World Health Organization designated December 1st to raise awareness about and focus attention on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. There is a link between HIV/AIDS and the work of MCC, particularly in southern Africa where high HIV/AIDS rates constrain economic growth and compound human misery through early deaths, illness, and orphaned children.
Lesotho’s MCC compact signed in 2007, for example, recognizes the economic and human toll of HIV/AIDS. Thirty-four percent of the compact is dedicated to assisting Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and Social Work and the non-governmental sector expand access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and response. The compact provides financing to improve health infrastructure and to strengthen health systems nationwide.
The compact is renovating clinics and staff housing at up to 139 primary health centers throughout the country in an effort to improve the working and living conditions of health staff. The program is also reconfiguring the out-patient departments of 14 of the 19 secondary hospitals in order to provide needed space for integrating HIV/AIDS activities into these departments. Particular attention is being paid during these renovations to reducing the potential spread of tuberculosis in waiting rooms and clinical spaces, providing greater occupational safety for health workers, and decreasing the level of deadly tuberculosis co-infection of HIV positive patients.
In addition to infrastructure improvements, the compact is working to strengthen health systems by funding efforts to improve health care waste management. This reduces the level of infectious medical wastes at health facilities and in communities. It is also improving management systems and capacities for community health, district health management, and hospital out-patient departments. On-the-ground coordination between MCC, MCAthe local entity implementing Lesotho’s MCC compact—USAID, and the Centers for Diseases Control (both implementing agencies for the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, funds) has been exceptionally strong, including the co-location of U.S. Government health-related staff and regular coordination of programming and implementation issues.
Moreover, MCC is looking at issues related to HIV/AIDS issues beyond the health sector. Construction activities in all high prevalence countries require HIV/AIDS mitigation efforts, including HIV/AIDS awareness and education for workers and communities to prevent the spread of HIV, especially as a result of labor migration. MCC compacts in Tanzania and Namibia, and compact development activities in Malawi, pay special attention to HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation in non-health sector activities.
December 1st is an important reminder of global HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, and MCC is committed to working with partner countries to help provide better access to health services and treatment to ensure a better future for those affected.
Posted on November 20, 2009 by Loren Labovitch, Director of Environment and Social Assessment
Last week, MCC hosted a discussion in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to solicit views from private sector stakeholders on international climate change adaptation and resilience. The discussion at MCC was part of a series of listening sessions organized by an inter-agency working group developing recommendations for coordinating the U.S. Government response to critical global climate issues. The working group is co-chaired by the CEQ and State Department and includes representatives from over 15 government agencies involved in foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, environmental protection, and national security.
MCC has a keen interest in the outcomes of the inter-agency process. We recognize that alleviating global poverty requires urgent attention to climate change. Thats why we continue to examine ways to more explicitly integrate climate considerations into our development assistance model, including better coordination with other government agencies and donors. The efforts of this working group are important to understanding the strategic implications of global climate impacts, identifying the most critical needs, and developing an effective and coordinated response within the U.S. Government and among international donors.
Government and donors cannot address these challenges alone. Private sector resources are vital, and U.S. foreign assistance plays an important role in helping developing countries establish an enabling environment to attract private sector investments and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology. At MCC, we have a number of initiatives designed to enhance the sustainability and impact of our poverty reduction programs through greater private sector collaboration. We are exploring ways in which these types of programs can be used to help partner countries adapt to climate change and pursue lower carbon growth strategies.
Last weeks roundtable discussion was attended by a range of private sector stakeholders, including, among others, engineering and consulting firms, financial service providers, and agribusinesses. Participants talked about the types of services and technologies being deployed to help developing countries cope with climate change and provided ideas for enhancing private sector participation and public-private partnerships. Much of the discussion focused on the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, as well as infrastructure, education, and information technology. Better data, additional research and development (especially agricultural research), and greater understanding of what climate change adaptation means were highlighted as important needs. Several participants discussed the importance of addressing climate change in an integrated manner and stressed the need to look across sectors, value chains, and other development priorities such as food security and disaster relief. Competitive challenge grants and demonstration projects were suggested to spur innovation and attract entrepreneurs. USAIDs Global Development Alliance was identified as a good model for creating effective public-private sector partnerships.
As this and other listening sessions have demonstrated, there is a tremendous amount of interest and knowledge about climate change and a clear desire among the private sector, NGOs, and other stakeholders to help respond to its effects. This initial listening session was designed to help frame the types of issues and questions the international adaptation working group must address as it develops its policy recommendations in the coming months. There will be additional opportunities in the future for input from the private sector and other stakeholders.
Posted on November 16, 2009 by Van Crowder, Director of Education
International Education Week 2009 (Nov 16-20) is an occasion to celebrate the benefits of worldwide learning and exchange. International cooperation prepares citizens in every country to live, work and compete in the global economy. MCC is working with partner nations to improve their education and training systems so that students learn the skills to get good jobs and boost economic growth in their countries and communities.
Youth development is central to a healthy, skilled and productive workforce. Investing in human capital through education and training is critical for improving productivity and economic growth and for reducing poverty and unemployment. About 36 percent of MCCs $358 million direct investment in education is focused on youth development through technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
In El Salvador, working through FOMILENIO (which is the government entity accountable for compact implementation), MCC is helping to renovate 20 middle technical schools, revise curricula, train instructors, and provide scholarships to deserving students, who will get jobs in agronomy, tourism and information technology—all areas crucial to the development of the country’s northern zone.
In Mongolia, MCC’s investment is helping to reform the TVET legal and policy framework so that schools are financially sustainable and can respond effectively to labor market demand. Competency-based curricula are being developed in key sectors like mining and construction. Selected schools are being renovated and equipped with modern technology and teachers trained in its use.
In Namibia, MCC supports community-based resource and study centers to provide basic job skills and information services for unemployed youth and low-skilled adults. Also, the MCC investment is helping the National Training Authority develop demand-led programs, and a National Training Fund will ensure that the TVET system is financially viable.
In Morocco, TVET focuses on key artisan trades (leather, wood, metal, pottery, and textiles) whose products are in demand in the home, export and tourist markets. About 15 schools will be renovated and equipped with facilities to teach students the skills needed by employers and the market.
International Education Week is a great moment for MCC, partner countries and agencies to highlight the strategic importance of youth development. The links between education and economic growth, income distribution and poverty reduction are well established. Income, productivity and growth are closely linked to educational opportunity. Strengthened TVET programs are particularly valuable for developing countries with large youth populations in need of the skills that lead to decent jobs, which in turn drive growth and reduce poverty.
Posted on November 10, 2009 by Neneh Diallo, Associate Director for Communications, Department of Congressional and Public Affairs
Last week, more than two dozen communications professionals from around the world gathered at MCC headquarters for this years Communications College, a unique hands-on conference among peers to exchange best practices and lessons learned in development communications. These professionals carry out the public outreach, media relations, and overall communications duties at the organizations—often referred to as Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCAs)—responsible for implementing the poverty reduction programs in each of their countries. Their productive exchanges deepened our collective understanding about the issues we face every day as communicators: building the capacity of a press corps, managing media relationships, speech writing, managing strategic—and sometimes crisis—communications planning, expanding press freedom, organizing press conferences and outreach events, leveraging new social media, and coordinating with civil society, NGOs, and donors. Equipped with fresh insights and useful practices, our hope is that our communications colleagues have returned home with new perspectives on how best to tell the important stories of how their countries compacts are improving the lives of the poor.
Our colleague Elene Aladashvili from Georgia stated that MCCs Communications College is a chance to meet other colleagues from all around the world, exchange ideas and best practices, tackle the problems together and enhance communications skills, but it also serves as a great opportunity to touch the very core of what MCC is all about. Every time I come back from Communications College, my head is full of new ideas and opportunities. That helps me a lot in my everyday work at MCA Georgia.
Communications College is not just about the local MCA professionals learning from us in Washington; it is also about us learning from them. Passion is the word I would use to sum up what I learned from the MCA communicators. They come face to face with the harsh realities of poverty and have the daunting task of managing the expectations of beneficiaries on a daily basis. Communicating results, especially long-term results, is not an easy task. It requires innovation, creativity, diplomacy, and patience. The MCA communicators each have a passion for communicating the results of their poverty reduction programs because they are personally vested in ensuring the success of their respective compacts.
Transparency and accountability demand the freedom of vibrant, honest, informed communications. The more our communications colleagues worldwide can shine light on what is unfolding during every stage of compact implementation—on the reforms underway and the results unfolding—the better informed citizens will become to hold their governments responsible to deliver fully on the promise of each MCC investment.
What we all know is this: Strategic, effective communications is how we can inspire action and affect change that will create an opportunity for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. Listening to and learning from one another during this years Communications College reaffirmed and re-energized our shared commitment to win the fight against global poverty.