Different perspectives, similar aspirations

CEO Daniel W. Yohannes, right, delivered opening remarks at an event on the role of democratic accountability in development assistance. Alicia Phillips Mandaville, left participated in a panel discussion.

MCC was pleased to co-host an event this week with Freedom House and the Open Society Institute on the role of democratic accountability in development assistance. After opening remarks from MCC CEO Daniel W. Yohannes and Freedom House President David J. Kramer, foreign policy expert Mort Halperin moderated a panel discussion on the topic. Brian Atwood, chairman of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, gave thoughtful closing remarks.

This is an area I have always been interested in, so I certainly enjoyed an afternoon’s worth of discussion. What was most interesting to me is how much convergence of beliefs there is between those interested in accountability and country ownership from an aid effectiveness perspective and those interested in accountability from a democratic institutional perspective—but this convergence is often masked by different terminology.

When MCC sees a country partner go to the mat to complete a high-profile compact investment on time, we often describe this as the country’s commitment to results. Some of our stakeholders see it as proof of country ownership, since it shows the government is fully vested in the outcome of the work (especially if there are difficult political decisions or additional funds required). But there are enough anecdotes to suggest that a big part of a government’s decision to go the extra mile is that governments know their citizens can see if the project is finished or not—and a realization that they may bear the popular blame if the project isn’t complete. For those watching democratic institutions, that’s pretty akin to democratic accountability.

No matter what we call it, everyone agrees it’s a good outcome. And its part and parcel of how MCC sees the links between democratic governance and sound development outcomes.

Next week at the U.N. General Assembly—where the theme is good governance—there will be a number of events (including ours) focused on the importance of good governance. Here’s to continued realization that we are covering a lot of the same ground from both the aid effectiveness and democratic accountability perspectives.