MCC Puts Aid Effectiveness Principles into Practice: Lessons on Country Ownership

As the development community looks outward to the upcoming Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, MCC looks inward at its own experience putting two key Busan agenda items into practice: country ownership and development results.

MCC was founded at a time when country ownership and accountability for results were emerging as central to the global dialogue on aid effectiveness. In creating MCC, Congress explicitly built into its model authorities and approaches to enhance these principles. In the run-up to Busan, and in the context of the United States Global Development Policy, MCC’s Principles into Practice series takes stock of what MCC has learned putting these principles of aid effectiveness into practice over the last seven years.

The starting point for MCC’s approach to country ownership is that development investments are more effective and sustainable when they reflect countries’ own priories and strengthen governments’ accountability to their citizens. MCC’s newly released Country Ownership paper draws on its experience in 22 partner countries to synthesize six key lessons in applying the country ownership principle.

Top among these lessons is that country “ownership” is actually too simple a term; rather, MCC pursues “partnerships” based on mutual accountability. Pursuing ownership requires a delicate balancing act with other principles of effectiveness—but despite the challenges, country ownership pays off in achieving development results.

Oxfam America’s review of the Country Ownership paper recognizes that “if local people don’t feel the investment serves their interests, it won’t actually deliver its full promised potential,” and calls on MCC to continue its practice of learning and applying lessons learned to even further enhance its best-practice procedures in broad-based consultation and transparency.

As the development community gathers November 29 in Busan to forge a global consensus on measuring results that matter for people, MCC’s Principles into Practice Focus on Results paper, published in February 2011, offers ten lessons about the benefits, challenges and tradeoffs associated with applying a transparent and rigorous approach to a continuum of results.

MCC received particularly high praise from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee this summer. In the “peer review” report, the OECD identified MCC as a leader in the effort to measure the results of development assistance. The Center for Global Development’s review of the Focus on Results paper and blog about MCC’s results approach gives MCC kudos for “candidly capturing real lessons—the kind that are learned when things don’t work.” We at MCC are exceedingly proud of the many positive results our partner countries are delivering, and we are committed to learning lessons from the results that didn’t meet our expectations. 

Transparency is at the heart of both country ownership and accountability for results. MCC provides partner country governments and citizens information ongoing activities by publishing economic analyses that inform investment decisions, five-year budgets, expected results, data on program benchmarks and progress, and findings of independent impact evaluations as programs complete.

We expect our partner countries to embrace transparency as well, which empowers their citizens to hold governments and donors accountable for how development resources are used and what results they achieve.

MCC operates at the forefront of transparency to advance development effectiveness and contributes to the principles of open government—a fact recognized just this week by the 2011 Publish What You Fund aid transparency report, in which MCC ranks seventh out of 58 donors worldwide, and as the most transparent U.S. Government donor.

We hope that these lessons from MCC’s experience feed into rich discussion at Busan. Your input on the Principles into Practice papers are welcome and encouraged—MCC Puts Aid Effectiveness Principles into Practice: Lessons on Country Ownershipplease leave your comments below.