Speech

September 22, 2009

As Delivered by Darius Mans, Acting CEO

New York City

Country-led Development: Proven Partnerships in Fighting Global Poverty

Welcoming Remarks by MCC's Acting CEO Darius Mans


Good morning and welcome! It is a unique privilege to be in the presence of so many distinguished individuals.  On behalf of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and our co-host, InterAction, I am extremely honored to welcome you all here.  It’s an exciting time at MCC, as you well know.  We just learned on Friday that the White House intends to nominate Mr. Daniel Yohannes as MCC’s new CEO.  This nomination by the White House indicates strong support for MCC and our mission.

Like MCC, I am particularly pleased that the United Nations General Assembly recognizes the importance of partnering with civil society organizations, with groups like InterAction and other NGOs.  These are the organizations who know firsthand the realities unfolding on the ground through decades of dedicated service.  Your presence, agendas, and missions play an integral role in fostering meaningful, sustainable development, and partnering with you—working alongside you—is not a luxury but rather a necessity.

This week, all eyes are on New York City.  As world leaders gather for this year’s General Assembly of the United Nations, they face a number of pressing global issues:

  • a severe economic crisis,
  • the threat of nuclear proliferation,
  • the implications of climate change, and
  • the challenges of food insecurity and disease that are pushing more of the world’s poor into extreme poverty.  

As I look across this crowded room—

  • as I see presidents and prime ministers of countries that are partnering with the Millennium Challenge Corporation,  
  • as I see civil society leaders and representatives from NGOs and think tanks among them,

—what I also see are solutions that are working in the fight against global poverty.  If the international community wants to know how best to tackle global poverty, I’d invite them to this very room to learn from our partnerships! Here, in this room, are the partners with the capacity and will to contribute in meaningful ways to our common challenges to elevate our common humanity.

This morning, our focus is on one of the most significant tenets of development assistance—the practice of “country-ownership”—where countries lead and champion their own development.  We will hear many perspectives on this from an illustrious group of speakers.

Why Country-Led Development Matters

What we know for sure at MCC is that the development assistance we provide to improve the quality of life for the world’s poor depends on country-determined and country-implemented solutions in which not just government planners but broad segments of society have a stake.  If we are serious about results, we must take country ownership seriously.   Consider the reasons why.

First, country ownership matters because it makes programs stronger and smarter.  Distinctively homegrown programs reflect the priorities of partner countries themselves.  Countries—not outside donors—know best what they need for their development.  Countries are more willing to pursue—and be held responsible for—programs of their own making.   

Second, country ownership matters because it empowers our partners and sustains results.  Because countries own their programs from the outset, they build the capacity—the procedures and framework—to sustain them over the long-term.   MCC provides technical assistance as needed, but day-to-day program implementation and management is country-led, not MCC-led.  We cannot have sustainability without country ownership. 

Third, country ownership matters because it improves transparency and accountability.  Programs created through country-led development reflect more than the wishes of individuals at the highest levels of government. They also include input from a wide range of stakeholders across society, engaged and consulted throughout the process.  Through the “democratization of ownership,” through ongoing debate and dialogue, vigilance and monitoring, programs are scrutinized to make sure they deliver their intended results.

MCC’s Role

Country ownership is not just a catchphrase at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  Though it has its share of challenges, it is—and will remain—a guiding principle.  It stems from our firmly-held belief that development cannot be imposed from outside but must be built from within. 

It is a belief we put into practice each and every day with partners in

  • Africa,
  • Central America,
  • Eurasia, and
  • the Pacific—represented by many of you here this morning—

who are investing over $7 billion of MCC’s grants in homegrown programs to reduce poverty and generate economic growth.   Because our partners know best what they need for their long-term economic growth, we find them investing their MCC grants in

  • agriculture and rural development,
  • schools and healthcare,
  • land tenure reforms and financing projects,
  • road and bridges, and
  • programs to help them achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Call to Action

As we look for ways to chart the future of foreign aid and make it smarter and more effective, approaches that deliver results—approaches that place countries in charge of their own development—will help inform the conversation.  And, such an honest conversation demands that we also examine the challenges of country ownership and how to overcome them.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is proud to be part of the dialogue. Our partnerships worldwide prove that country ownership creates smart programs that matter to the poor.

I invite and encourage all of us in this room

  • to listen and learn from one another about our collective experiences with country ownership—what works and what we can do better—,
  • to recommit ourselves to this guiding principle, and
  • to strengthen our partnerships along this core value,

so we can achieve further progress in the fight against global poverty.

Thank you, and I look forward to what promises to be an exciting discussion.