Smart Development through Local Leadership: Discussing country ownership

Earlier this week, MCC and Oxfam America co-hosted a thought-provoking discussion at the National Press Club on how the principle and practice of “country ownership” makes development assistance more effective. Those of us in the room learned that what seems to be a complicated concept is, rather, a common sense approach: Countries know their development needs best as they themselves lead the fight to reduce poverty and stimulate long-term economic growth for the benefit of their citizens. As Ambassador Ombeni Sefue of Tanzania aptly shared, country ownership creates the “time and space for countries to think for themselves.”

The audience raised insightful questions during the event, including how best to include women and youth in a participatory process that engages them constructively in their country’s development agenda. Exploring the link between country-led development among the world’s poorest countries and U.S. security interests was another timely issue that came up. It matters for a number of reasons, best summarized by the reminder from Zambia’s Ambassador, Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, that we all live in a ““global village.”“

Country ownership is a fundamental best practice in development. And-I’m proud to say-it’s one of the U.S. Government’s core principles at work through MCC as we partner with the poorest of the poor. Sean Mulvaney, now with the German Marshall Fund, talked about his work with former Congressman Jim Kolbe to establish MCC as a groundbreaking foreign assistance reform initiative that embraced country ownership. It remains at the core of what we do, as described in Alicia Phillips Mandaville’s paper on MCC’s approach to country ownership.

We find that country ownership is one of the key ingredients not only in designing but also in sustaining smart, effective solutions to poverty reduction. Both those partner countries receiving MCC assistance, and the American taxpayers providing it, expect no less. Especially now, as the global economy suffers, we need to look for ways to make every development dollar count if we want to deliver tangible change in the lives of the world’s poor.

Join the discussion by reviewing the event’s transcript.