Posted on October 31, 2012 by Scott Fontaine, Corporate copywriter-editor
Photojournalist Jake Lyell and I were in Mozambique last week to speak with project beneficiaries and record the story of MCC’s impact from their perspective.
It’s always important to remember that our work impacts different people in different ways, and it is always a pleasant surprise when beneficiaries point out additional benefits from MCC compacts. Today offered a prime example: One of our first stops was at a bridge along the north-south N1 Highway, which MCC is improving as part of the $176 million Rehabilitation and Construction of Roads Project.
From an economic perspective, the reason MCC is expanding this particular bridge—which crosses the Meluli River in Nampula province—is to increase access to markets and reduce transportation costs, all with the ultimate goal of creating economic growth. I spoke with several beneficiaries, and the potential economic benefits are embraced by many Mozambicans living or working near the road, each looking forward to the opportunity it will bring.
Many beneficiaries had a different perspective and wanted to speak about another aspect: safety.
The bridge, like most along this stretch of road, was built in the 1960s. Its structure is sound, but some of the side barriers have crumbled away and it no longer meets modern safety standards. Earlier this year, a minibus carrying about 20 people at night ran off the side of the bridge and plunged into the riverbed below. This tragic accident is part of a global epidemic of 1.3M deaths and untold disabilities caused by road accidents.
MCC-funded work has since begun on widening the bridge which will eventually have two full lanes of traffic and safety barriers on the sides. The road, including six bridges, are designed to meet the Southern African Development Community design and safety standards. In Mozambique, as in many of MCC’s partner countries, national roads not only serve vehicular traffic but are also important bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfares. MCC places a premium on increasing both vehicle and pedestrian safety.
I heard the story of the minibus crash several times before we arrived, and one contractor working on site on Tuesday assured me of one thing: “The bridge,” he said in Portuguese, “will be safe. We are helping make it safe.”
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
For the first time in my life, I jumped into a concrete breaker. As I took the controls and started breaking into the asphalt of the road that we are rehabilitating on Samar Island, I could already feel the positive impact unfolding as a result of the partnership between MCC and the Philippines. Nearly half of the $434 million compact will be invested in rehabilitating 222 kilometers of road on Samar Island, and I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking during my visit to the Philippines.
All the local leaders—from mayors to the governor and congressman who attended—stressed the enormous economic and social benefits the road will bring, especially as a complement to other ongoing projects like the rehabilitation of a local airport. We are laying the foundation for future economic opportunities. While the impact in these terms is certainly real, what I saw and heard at the groundbreaking emphasizes a far greater impact.
First, the local turnout was impressive. Extra chairs had to be brought in, while many more remained standing. The people's presence underscores that this is a project they stand behind as they welcome the benefits their communities will enjoy from it. The impact of local engagement for accountability cannot be underestimated.
Second, it was refreshing to see all stakeholders who have a role in the construction of the road at the event. Their commitment to deliver the road on time, within budget and with quality shows a willingness to uphold our high standards for infrastructure projects. The impact for sustainability is stronger when all stakeholders demonstrate a commitment to good performance.
And third, I was able to climb into the concrete breaker because it was already on site, along with other heavy equipment. Such rapid equipment mobilization will allow the project to start on schedule, and deliver impact as soon as possible to the people of Samar.
The noise of a concrete breaker in action represents impact in motion. For the people of Samar about to experience a rehabilitated road, this is the sound of a dream becoming a reality.
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
What an exciting day for the children of La Paz, a community in Leyte on Samar Island in the Philippines. On Wednesday, they got a new elementary school and I had the opportunity to see firsthand how the MCC partnership with the Philippine people is transforming the lives of families through projects selected, designed and built by local communities.
Greeted by young boys and girls waving handmade U.S. flags, I joined a joyful ceremony during which 11 projects funded through the $120 million Kalahi-CIDDS project, a part of MCC's $434 million compact with the Philippines, were officially inaugurated and turned over to community leaders and residents. The communities celebrated the completion of the school and other projects, such as a water supply system and a farm to market road, all selected as priorities by the local residents.
I was humbled by the outpouring of gratitude, and I was struck by the genuine commitment of these communities to lift themselves out of poverty. In addition to MCC's investment, local communities are investing their own time, talent and resources into these projects. The Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, MCC Resident Country Director, MCA-Philippines CEO, the Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy, and local leaders joined me for the ceremony and reiterated the value of a partnership based on community ownership. More important than the physical infrastructure is the human capacity developed and a sense of what the Filipinos call bayanihan, or communal unity and spirit. This principle is what drives all Kalahi-CIDSS projects and, in practice, is what made the school I visited in La Paz an example of how MCC is helping to change lives one school at a time.
Posted on October 5, 2012 by By Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
On Monday, I joined U.S. Government colleagues—Gayle Smith of the White House, Don Steinberg of USAID and Rob Goldberg of State Department—at the launch of the 2012 Aid Transparency Index. The Transparency Index, published annually by Publish What You Fund, rates aid organizations on how transparently they do business. This year, MCC was named the ninth-most transparent organization out of 72 globally, and the most transparent U.S. Government agency.
Of course, we are proud of our individual ranking. But we are more proud of being part of an administration that is so firmly committed to transparency. We are proud to be part of an interagency team collectively striving to bring more sunlight to our foreign assistance. The Foreign Assistance Dashboard is a huge step forward for the U.S. Government—just a few years ago it was next to impossible to know what the United States was spending, where and on what. We are proud to be the first agency to publish obligation and expenditure data to the Dashboard. The release last week of the OMB Bulletin is another big step for the U.S. Government, as it brings other agencies into the Dashboard.
But we want to do so much more. MCC has our sights on two ways to push our transparency efforts beyond “show me the money” to “show me the evidence.” Two efforts are central to MCC’s evidence-based approach—putting more data in the public domain and bringing transparency to what we are learning.
First, more data. This week, we launched our Open Data Catalog, data.mcc.gov, which will over time become our one-stop shop for financial, performance and evaluation data. This is about exposing the data and evidence that MCC uses to make decisions and measure results and putting it in the hands of smart people to use it in new ways. Our first step was to put out MCC’s Fiscal Year 2012 selection data in XML format. Check back soon for FY13 selection data, financial data, program performance data, and a goldmine of household survey data that underlies our independent evaluation work.
Second, more transparent learning. MCC is pushing transparency beyond money and data to learning about what we are actually achieving. MCC has made a big commitment to independent evaluations to help us test assumptions about traditional approaches, and build better evidence for what works—and what doesn’t—in development. Our first impact evaluations will be final later this month, and we’ll make all the findings public. The learning distilled from these rigorous independent evaluations is enormous, for us and for others.
We look forward to you standing with MCC as we take transparency to the next level, even when the evidence points to things not going as we expected. That is often the greatest motivator for change. It is central to accountability and open government and is at the heart of MCC’s evidence-based approach.
Posted on October 2, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President, Department of Compact Operations
Two weeks ago, MCC was delighted to host a delegation from the Government of Indonesia (GOI) for the signing of a Project Implementation Agreement (PIA), the document that sets out the operational details for implementing MCC’s compact with Indonesia. The compact focuses on investments in renewable energy and sustainable natural resource use, maternal and child nutrition, and public procurement modernization.
The Indonesian delegation was led by Pak Lukita Tuwo, who is the Vice Minister of the Planning Ministry and GOI’s principal representative for the MCC compact. Pak Lukita was accompanied by members of his staff, including Ibu Emmy, the head of the Ministry’s legal bureau, and Pak Kennedy, its director for bilateral foreign funding.
We were also pleased to be joined by Pak Dino Djalal, Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United States, and Ambassador Djani, who is the head of North American and European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Djani was in Washington for the semi-annual meeting of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, where Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Natalegawa announced the signing of the PIA.
The signing, which took place in MCC’s Washington office, was marked by a sense of celebration and anticipation: MCC and GOI expect the compact to enter into force within the next few months. The PIA sets out the terms for the new Millennium Challenge Account – Indonesia (MCA-I), the first institution of its kind in the country and one that we hope will provide a path-breaking model for other development projects in Indonesia.
We’re also seeing other signs of progress as we move toward entry into force: the first meeting of the MCA-I Board of Trustees, the approval of the first disbursement request for funds, and the signing of five major contracts. I’m proud of what the MCC and GOI teams are doing to move this exciting program forward. Expectations are high, especially among the Indonesian people in the provinces, where many of the compact activities will be implemented.
While much hard work and many challenges lie ahead, we’re already seeing the power of partnership and are confident that the compact will not only improve lives of Indonesians, but strengthen the ties between our two nations.