Posted on April 22, 2011 by Frances Reid, Senior Investment and Risk Officer
It was a great personal pleasure to participate in the closing ceremonies marking the end of the Compact in Vanuatu, and the completion of the Santo East Coast Road and Efate Ring Road rehabilitation. Vanuatu was one of the first countries selected to receive MCC funding, and it remains the only Pacific island nation to have entered into a compact with MCC. I’ve been extremely impressed with the serious efforts made by the government and the commitment of the people of Vanuatu over the last five years, not only to carry out the requirements of the Compact, but also, and in the long run more importantly, to strive to meet the rigorous policy reform eligibility criteria which MCC considers the key to the sustainability of development. Vanuatu has truly emerged as a model of democracy and commitment to good policy, and as a regional anchor of stability.
In a country which had only 73 kilometers of paved roads before project inception, the Compact has nearly tripled this number to a grand total of over 220 kilometers of paved roads! The rehabilitation of these two national roads, the most important roads in the country and affectionately renamed the Goodwill Highway and the Road of Life, is already improving access to market and providing critical access to social services in the two most critical economic development corridors in Vanuatu.
This project has been the highest priority for everyone involved and it has already made national history. From the precedent of community consultations and community engagement through the commitment to building infrastructure in a culturally respectful way to capacity building at both MCA-Vanuatu and the Engineering Support Unit and Government commitment to good policies for economic growth, this has been a demonstration of country ownership, dedication, and partnership. MCC takes pride in having been part of this effort to lay a foundation for sound, sustainable, country-led economic growth.
The Compact is also a testament to good donor cooperation. New Zealand, in particular, as well as Australia, through their development assistance programs, contributed in critical ways to the completion of the Compact program. Their willingness to work with MCC and the Government of Vanuatu to achieve a common purpose is an excellent example of how donor cooperation is supposed to work.
Posted on April 21, 2011 by Sergiu Budesteanu, Environment and Social Assessment Director, MCA-Moldova
In light of Earth Day 2011, Sergiu Budesteanu, MCA-Moldova’s Environment and Social Assessment Director, answers a few questions about the Compact’s River Basin Management Activity, Moldova’s new Water Law, and why protecting the environment is so important to reducing poverty and helping Moldovan farmers. For more information on Moldova’s MCC Compact, click here.
1. What are the main objectives of the River Basin Management Activity and how will it support the Compact’s long-term goal of promoting sustainable growth in Moldova’s agriculture sector?
Growing demand for water, and concerns about climate change and the increasing frequency of drought and floods require improved water resource planning and secure water rights.
The activity will support the approval and implementation of a new Water Law and development of several secondary regulations institutionalizing a modern system of secure, long-term water rights for at least 12 years. Another component of the activity is providing institutional support and equipment (geographical information systems, hydrologic modeling, spatial databases and decision support tools) to governmental institutions to improve their ability to monitor water quality and quantity. The last and one of the most important aspects of the activity is building institutional capacity to engage all stakeholders in the creation of basin and sub-basin councils and developing management and action plans for a few river basins.
2. What steps are you taking to work with stakeholders, within and outside the government of Moldova, who are important to improving the management of Moldova’s water resources?
Even before the Compact entered into force in September 2010, MCA-Moldova and MCC played an active role in engaging state organizations, research and development institutions, non-governmental organizations and international financing institutions in developing the river basin management concept. Five months after the commencement of implementation, we’ve organized conferences, seminars and workshops. Today, the activity is the product of collaboration among many actors in water resource management. It is an important goal that Moldova wants and needs to achieve in order to ensure sustainable economic development.
3. What is MCA Moldova’s involvement in establishing a new Water Law?
In January 2010, a Water Law Working Group was established by the Ministry of Environment with representatives from all institutions involved in water management, data collection, and policy development, as well as from non-governmental organizations. MCA-Moldova is actively working together with the Ministry of Environment in all Water Law Working Group meetings. MCA-Moldova and the authors of the Water Law also participate in seminars, workshops and meetings with the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, farmer NGOs and organizations that promote and support private enterprises. We at MCA-Moldova offer continuous support to all stakeholders when there is a need for consultations and explanations regarding the Water Law.
4. When is the law expected to pass and how will it benefit Moldovans?
We estimate that the Government of Moldova will finalize the Water Law by the end of the summer. Once in force, the new law will benefit Moldovans in many ways. The new Water Law creates a legal framework for the effective management, protection and use of surface and ground water - based on assessment, planning and participatory decision making. This is a conceptual difference between how water resources were managed in the past when there was no planning and participatory decision making management compared to what is proposed in the new Water Law. Now, every water user or stakeholder will have a voice in the river basin and sub-basin committees when a decision about how to prioritize water use is taken.
The new Water Law establishes long term water use rights to promote investments that depend on the availability of water resources. With the new Water Law in force, every person investing in expanding its business or creating a new business can request an authorization for special water use for a minimum of 12 years.
Additionally, the new Water Law establishes the necessary water status protection to prevent further deterioration of water, protect and restore the aquatic environment and align water management and protection with European requirements. The River Basin Management Activity will support development of regulations that are necessary to implement the Water Law in order to ensure sufficient supply of good quality surface and ground water, which is needed for sustainable, balanced and equitable water use.
5. How will establishment of Water User Associations help protect the environment and improve the livelihoods of Moldovan farmers?
The main challenges to improving environmental stewardship in the agricultural sector are weak institutional capacity and low public awareness of environmental protection issues. The current legal framework that defines best practices in sustainable agriculture is well developed but there are no resources to support implementation due to the fact that agriculture is one of weakest sectors of the economy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a process to privatize land was initiated. This resulted in the fragmentation of former collective farm land. As a consequence, most individual farmers did not have, and still do not have, sufficient funds to cultivate their land. This was also aggravated by the fact that most of the farmers lack basic knowledge to apply best practices in environment protection.
Now, with implementation of the Transition to High Value Agriculture Project we hope to change the situation. One key to success is creating a framework that allows for the formation of functional and sustainable Water User Associations. The Compact will help new Water User Associations develop and update Environmental and Social Management Plans that will identify the environmental impacts of irrigation and inform WUA members of actions that can be taken to reduce potential negative impacts on soil, surface and groundwater, and biodiversity. Considerable actions will be taken to increase the knowledge of each WUA member on the use of natural resources. It is our goal to have those WUAs receiving Compact support to spread their experience and knowledge to all farmers in the country and be a model of success.
Posted on April 20, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Each time I step into the ancient Medina of Fez, I feel as if I am traveling back in time. The Medina (which means “city” in Arabic) was founded in the ninth century and is considered by many to be the educational, religious, cultural and artisan heart of Morocco. Today it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who continue to ply their trades as they have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known. I never tire of getting lost in the Medina’s narrow pathways, dodging donkeys, pushcarts and crowds of people, and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of this ancient, living, breathing city that is home to over 100,00 people. It’s easy to see why Fez is a UNESCO World Heritage site—there is truly nowhere like it in the world.
However, much of the Medina has fallen into disrepair from lack of investment. It is common to see wooden beams braced between crumbling buildings to prevent them from collapsing. Approximately 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Over half the Medina’s residents are said to be linked to the artisan sector. These artisans typically work in small, cold, dark and unsafe workshops and I’m constantly amazed that they can produce such beautiful artwork under such conditions. The Medina also faces serious environmental degradation. The Jawahir River (the name means “the River of Jewels” in Arabic), which bisects the Medina, has become highly polluted from years of being used as an open conduit for wastewater and toxic chemicals used in artisan production.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna (PLY), a public square in the Medina where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by launching a redevelopment project that addresses the dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and makes PLY the center of commerce and community activity that it should be.
MCC and the Government of Morocco launched an open, anonymous International Design competition in September 2010 and selected a winner in March 2011. We were thrilled that 176 teams from over 90 countries registered for the competition. The people of Fez were consulted at various stages, before and during the competition, to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. This led to a conversation about the future of the Medina that was unprecedented in Morocco.
On March 18, 2011, a panel of expert jurors representing all the stakeholder institutions and including a group of renowned international architects selected the design of mossessian & partners, an architectural firm based in London, as the winner. Mossessian’s proposal shows extreme sensitivity to the Medina’s urban context and architecture, using cues from the patterns, geometry and repetition that characterize Islamic design, while introducing innovations like re-connecting Place Lalla Yeddouna to the riverfront and creating a pedestrian route along the river. Outdoor galleries and public spaces will be connected through pathways that echo the Medina’s narrow streets and will be decorated with colorful tiles produced by local artisans, giving each space a distinct identity. Historically important buildings will be rehabilitated and preserved while new buildings will replace less-significant buildings that have fallen into disrepair or are inconsistent with the new uses surrounding the square. The project has already caused the Municipality of Fez to take steps to clean up the river, and additional improvements are planned so that Place Lalla Yedounna can realize its full potential as community center and driver of economic development.
There still remains a lot to be done prior to construction, such as resettling some artisans and cleaning up the polluted river. However, the International Design Competition was an exciting event for the City of Fez and an important milestone for the project. We are on our way to realizing the goal of improving the lives of the people of the Medina, and moving this community closer to a revitalized future.
For More Information
Posted on April 12, 2011 by Kenneth Miller, Deputy Resident Country Director, El Salvador
Here in El Salvador, President Obama’s visit last month was the most anticipated and celebrated event of the year. In a nation that loves the United States but struggles to regain its economic footing and contain a violent crime epidemic, this signal of friendship from an American president was most welcome. President Obama used this Salvadoran platform to frame the principles of his new Policy Directive and highlight the innovative approach that MCC and other U.S. aid agencies are taking in our efforts to drive economic progress and achieve sustainable economic growth.
In remarks given alongside President Funes, President Obama highlighted the innovative approach we are taking to development in El Salvador:
“Instead of the old donor-recipient model, we’re working as partners, with El Salvador in the lead, to confront the hurdles to growth and development… Of course, we already have currently a Millennium Challenge grant coming into El Salvador that involves several hundred million dollars and is helping on a wide variety of fronts… Thanks to smart investments in education, rural development and infrastructure, El Salvador has made gains in reducing poverty. And to build on this progress, El Salvador is one of the first four countries in the world in our Partnership for Growth, which is a key element of my administration’s new approach to development.”
This El Salvador-first framework is the basis for the success of the MCC Compact in the Northern Zone. And while El Salvador has hit a great stride in implementation (MCC just approved a $100 million, 6-month disbursement this week), what has transformed our development work is the successful adoption, by both donor and recipient, of a model where transparency and results are held on a pedestal, public participation and inclusion are the norm, and host-country ownership is celebrated by poor farmer and President alike. The MCC model has enabled us to do more than build roads, renovate schools, train farmers, construct municipal water systems, and extend the electrical grid to thousands of poor households. Our model of development has seen results that go to the heart of host-country ownership: 83.6 percent of farmers have adopted new farming practices, new enrollment in MCC-renovated high schools and community colleges is growing much faster than non-MCC schools, and most unique – the title “Northern Zone” is no longer connected with poverty but rather seen as a new frontier for opportunity. People believe in the MCC model in El Salvador – and rightfully so, as their fingerprints are on display from start to finish.
President Obama took a moment to stand with the Salvadoran people, extol the virtues of host-country ownership, and recommit his support for helping this small nation fight the threat of crime and solidifying an economic development model based on a partnership to confront the hurdles to growth and prosperity.
The MCC model has become a favorite strategy in this fight against poverty. The people and Government of El Salvador are proud to call it their own.
Posted on April 8, 2011 by Patrick Fine, Vice President of Compact Operations
During the last week of March, MCC Board member Alan Patricof and I visited Georgia to mark the completion of the 5-year Georgia Compact, which officially completes on April 7th.
After three days of travelling throughout Georgia to see the work financed by MCC and meet with farmers, entrepreneurs, NGOs and religious leaders, and our government counterparts, I have no doubt that the Georgia compact will be remembered for its remarkable achievements, and for how it has demonstrated that the United States and Georgia are not only strong allies, but good business partners.
On our first day in country we drove for several hours down the newly rehabilitated Samtskhe-Javakheti road that links the previously isolated southern part of the country to the rest of Georgia. This investment opens up trade with Armenia and Turkey, and offers the prospect of revitalizing an area that was ignored during the Soviet era. We stopped at a new grocery shop that recently opened along the road. I hope it is a portent of the business development that will spring up along this strategic route.
We also visited the ancient Jvari monastery and the cathedral at Mtskheta, marvelous legacies of Western civilization from Georgia’s medieval past. As we travelled the road, crumbling fortresses crowned the peaks of mountains – harkening back to the time when the famed Silk Road passed through Georgia. I thought of President Saakashvili’s comment that “Georgia is not just a European country, but one of the most ancient European countries,” and of the country’s development strategy to revive its role as a crossroads between Asia and Europe.
Our second day was spent in the Kakheti region, where MCC financed dozens of small projects as part of an activity designed to develop the country’s huge agricultural and agribusiness potential. It is a point of great satisfaction that MCC financing helped 280 agribusinesses expand, resulting in the creation of over 2,800 jobs. At the 6th-century Alaverdi monastery, nestled on a rich plain at the foot of the soaring Caucasus Mountains, we saw a modern wine-making operation using traditional methods, and sampled the fruits of their honey-making and horticulture enterprises. It was impossible not to think of the tremendous potential for tourism in this scenic and historic setting. Before long I bet we’ll hear about people traveling to Georgia for tours of its historic wine country. When they do, they will have the pleasure of discovering the warmth and hospitality of the Georgian people.
We concluded a very productive visit with a well-attended public ceremony in Tbilisi to officially close the compact. With a great sense of satisfaction, we were able to toast a U.S.-Georgian partnership that has built essential infrastructure and created new opportunities that are generating jobs and raising incomes.
Posted on April 8, 2011 by Alan Patricof, Board Member
I met a farmer who sells cucumbers and tomatoes and is benefiting from the Agribusiness Development Activity. A total of 280 agribusiness and farm production projects have been funded, resulting in over 2,800 jobs.
I visited a chicken hatching facility that received funds from the Georgia Regional Development Fund project.
Even for those of us involved in global development, it’s easy to wonder sometimes whether your work is making a difference.
Last week, I got my answer. I traveled to Georgia to attend compact closeout ceremonies and get a first-hand look at MCC’s investments in this region. I’m happy to report that the MCC model is working.
I spent three days in Georgia, and I wanted to see as much of MCC’s work as possible. So I met with beneficiaries. I drove the newly rehabilitated Samtskhe-Javakheti road. I heard at all levels about the struggles, the challenges, and the enthusiasm behind the MCC-funded work in Georgia. After all of that, I am impressed.
The Samtskhe-Javakheti road rehabilitation is the project that, at first glance, will yield the most immediate and tangible impacts on commerce and tourism around the country. Businesses are transporting their goods and tour operators are creating new routes that make use of this road, accessing the lakes and caves that are found along the way.
The less tangible but potentially more impactful investments, in my opinion, will be the MCC-funded credit and grants programs. I met young entrepreneurs who are eager to expand and excited to take advantage of the opportunities that this source of capital provides. People are benefiting throughout Georgia and the impact will be felt for years to come.
I saw accountability, country ownership and tangible results at work. U.S. Ambassador Bass said it best: “MCC has made us think differently about how the USG partners with countries.”
This compact could have been disrupted by any number of events in Georgia – a war in 2008 and implementation challenges not least among them. Instead, the compact was completed successfully and the results are easy to spot.
I can now say with certainty: MCC works.