The boardroom at the General Electric Company at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City is a long way from villages in Ghana or rural communities in El Salvador. I was reminded this week, however, that the expertise, technologies, and resources of corporate America are important bridges to these faraway places. The private sector offers exciting, real options for growth for the poorest people of these countries, and MCC is partnering with the private sector to make our mutual efforts more effective and take this responsibility to heart. MCC signed an agreement with GE to explore areas of mutual cooperation and ways to leverage financing and technical know-how to help MCC countries find long-term solutions for reducing poverty and sustaining growth. From clean air and water technologies to corporate best practices, GE is willing to help our partners maximize their MCC funding to fulfill their own development priorities. GE Vice Chairman and CFO Keith Sherin and I spoke to a group of business leaders and opinion makers about the urgency for private sector engagement. MCC’s approach to foreign assistance—using a results-driven, corporate model—is encouraging the private sector to move beyond charity to a strong sense of corporate social responsibility in developing countries where they do business. I hope others will join the growing list of corporations that are engaging with our MCC partner countries. Were creating a conversation about how these companies can and should provide the technologies, employment opportunities, and investments that will make MCC’s roads, bridges, ports, schools, and irrigation projects something that is much more than just stand-alone infrastructure. With the private sectors involvement, they become real opportunities for sustainable development.
MCC countries must demonstrate a commitment to democracy to be eligible for our grant funding. Democracy is multifaceted—it’s not just about elections or governance—and we believe that well functioning democratic institutions provide an environment that leads to sustainable economic growth. Last week, MCC hosted an expert panel at our Washington headquarters to address this issue and to look at the links between a free press and economic growth. Our panelists agreed that raising the profile of this important issue is a cornerstone of what MCC helps partner countries strive for, and achieve. Keeping corruption in check requires a free press that can investigate, uncover, and report. Only when the press functions as a viable, independent institution can it truly fulfill its role in society. MCC programs in developing countries are training journalists, strengthening institutions that fight corruption, increasing transparency, and helping build democracies.
MCC continues to bring people around the table to talk about global poverty. Earlier this week while in New York to sign the memorandum of understanding with GE, I was reminded of how much interest there is in the United States to address this problem. From prominent members of the Philippine-American community, to business leaders, to the media, to promising students at places like Manhattans Hunter College, we are a nation that takes development assistance seriously. The U.S. taxpayer investment that MCC represents is a symbol of this commitment, but so is the urgency with which the private sector in America—through philanthropic efforts, involvement in critical issues like gender, the environment, human rights, and increased investment—has taken on this responsibility. Poverty is a problem that merits this serious contribution from public and private sector America, and MCC is proud to be part of this conversation and commitment.
(Technical edits were made to this post on April 9, 2008 at 5:13 p.m. Ed.)