Posted on September 30, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
World leaders gathered in New York City last week for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. I was pleased that, even among the pressing global challenges that compete for their attention, they showed a commitment to the important issue of sustaining development’s positive impacts as indispensable ingredients for peaceful and prosperous societies. Clearly, this meeting creates a valuable space not only for heads of state to converge and chat but also for diverse sectors involved in development to come together and discuss challenges, exchange information, create innovative partnerships, and share solutions.
Enduring results were certainly a key topic as I met with presidents and prime ministers from our partner countries on the margins of the General Assembly. In every conversation, we talked about the challenges and successes of implementation, and ways of leveraging each dollar of our development resources to deliver lasting impact with maximum efficiency.
In my meetings with NGO executives and those I attended at the Clinton Global Initiative, we talked about holding ourselves and our partners accountable to measure, monitor and evaluate the long-term impact of our development investments. Given these challenging economic times and the evolving dynamics between donors and recipients of foreign aid, we increasingly rely on evidence-based decision making to drive real change. That is why we see an increased focus on using data in transparent ways to honestly assess what works and does not work in development so that we can sustain the successes and reengineer the failures.
With former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips moderating, MCC also hosted an investment roundtable with the leaders of Lesotho, Morocco, Mozambique, and Tanzania, our four partner countries in Africa who just completed their respective MCC compacts this month. The roundtable discussion centered on the private sector’s role in building upon and sustaining the successes of our initial projects. As we transition from foreign aid to more trade and investment, the private sector will increasingly power the economic growth necessary to improve the quality of life for millions around the world in enduring ways. And, as U.S. businesses seek new opportunities abroad in these expanding markets, Americans too stand to benefit through new jobs and growth.
Keeping the spotlight on investment sustainability will define the future of MCC’s partnerships and development effectiveness. We want our initial development resources to attract the necessary follow-on and additional investments—from the private sector, for example—that will help our partners break the cycle of aid dependency and springboard toward greater economic growth and prosperity, fueled by their own productivity, ingenuity and innovation. My meetings this week reaffirmed that our partners share this vision, and together we will continue working to make that goal a reality.
Posted on September 17, 2013 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
I was fortunate to visit Mongolia last week to attend closeout celebrations for the country’s MCC compact, whose projects finished on budget and on time with impressive results. Every celebration showcased a sampling of Mongolia’s traditions and culture that are deeply intertwined with daily life—like drinking mare’s milk, eating cheese curds and listening to the sounds of fiddles and throat singers.
I first attended the inauguration of the 176-kilometer road that MCC rehabilitated. There was a series of dirt tracks previously that were extremely dusty because of their proximity to the Gobi Desert, littered with huge and dangerous potholes. Now, Mongolians have a smooth and safer road that connects them to markets in Mongolia, China and Russia.
I took this road to the city of Choir, the site of a training center MCC funded as part of the Vocational Education Project. Students from across the country benefit from the school’s excellent training for mining careers. I saw the hands-on training modules that companies like Wagner Asia have developed. I heard immense satisfaction from both teachers and students, who are now prepared to enter a challenging workforce with the right skills that are in demand by employers.
On our way back to Ulaanbaatar, we stopped by the wind farm that MCC helped connect to the national grid. This is the country’s first wind farm, funded through a public-private partnership between the Mongolian government, General Electric and Newcom. MCC played a small but key role in this effort, and it was encouraging to see how green technologies, along with our investment in providing energy-efficient products such as cook stoves, are helping Mongolians enjoy cleaner air.
I also saw the widespread benefits of the health project for all of Mongolia. I count myself among the beneficiaries as I tasted skim milk, saw designated smoking areas and ate less salt in staple foods such as bread—all thanks to the project’s nationwide advocacy for healthier living. I visited one of the hospitals that received state-of-art equipment, including computer tomography and angiography machines, as well as an intensive care and rehabilitation unit for heart attack and stroke patients. Having these tools in place is vital in a country where cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death and one of the four major causes of disability. “I have never seen such a comprehensive investment in health in my past 20 years in the field,” one doctor told me.
Finally, one of the most gratifying successes across all projects is a deeper awareness of the importance of gender equality. The Mongolia Compact has been a model for incorporating gender integration into funded activities consistent with MCC’s gender policy. I met Ms. Javshan, a herder who participated in the Property Rights Project. She is the head of her household and a role model for her eight children and 20 grandchildren. MCC-funded training taught her more about sustainable grazing and land management, and she believes that she is now able to make better informed investments in her land because of this knowledge and the security of the property lease she received though the project. The compact created opportunities for her family that she never thought possible, and she has become a real leader in her community as a result.
During this trip, I saw the past, present and future of Mongolia—from gers and herders to wind farms and clean cook stoves to women leaders and technically-trained professionals.
I am proud of the contributions Mongolia’s MCC compact has made to help realize the vision for a healthier and more prosperous future for the people from the land of the eternal blue sky.
Posted on September 11, 2013 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation
I travelled to Tegucigalpa two weeks ago for an important milestone in MCC’s relationship with Honduras: the signing of a $15.6 million Threshold Program Agreement. I joined President Porfirio Lobo and Vice President María Antonieta Guillén at the signing ceremony, and both showed excitement and commitment toward the program’s potential to help improve governance and reduce opportunities for corruption.
This new Threshold Program follows MCC’s successful five-year compact, which increased the agricultural productivity of farmers and improved key road infrastructure. The success of the compact was due in large part to the partnership between MCC and the Government of Honduras’ compact implementation unit that set a new benchmark for efficient, effective and transparent project management in Honduras. Now, through the Threshold Program, MCC and the Government of Honduras will take on a new challenge: improving financial management, procurement and cost-effective service delivery throughout the government.
This program in Honduras is the first “next generation” Threshold Program. When MCC redesigned its Threshold Program, we made a clear decision to focus on high-impact policy and institutional reforms. These can be among the most difficult to implement. Unlike building roads or water pumps, policy reforms require governments to look inward and admit weaknesses.
This can be unpopular and even risky for politicians—but having the Honduran government and citizens in full support of the Threshold Program provides a necessary first step for a successful program and helped demonstrate their broader commitment to improving governance and growing the country’s economy.
If this level of commitment can be sustained, when the program ends, we will see:
- The Government of Honduras paying all obligations promptly, increasing bidder interest and competition.
- Government ministries delivering quality services through the most efficient use of staff and resources.
- More public-private partnerships efficiently delivering public services, and Hondurans viewing these partnerships as transparent and efficient.
- A civil society with access to information and constructively using that information to deepen a culture of transparency and government effectiveness.
Now the hard work begins. I look forward to being a part of this exciting and ambitious program. While MCC will provide financial support and technical assistance, the key to success will be the bold leadership of current and future governments to make the tough choices and the necessary policy improvements. And throughout this process, we will need civil society and the private sector to monitor and demand results.