Washington—A former Secretary of State, a top Obama administration official and a long-serving U.S. senator each voiced strong support for foreign assistance during the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Forum on Global Development on April 29.
The Forum, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, provided an opportunity for some of international development’s top leaders and practitioners to meet and exchange ideas. MCC also presented three awards to individuals and organizations using the power of partnerships to make an impact in the lives of the world’s poor.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice provided the event’s keynote address and discussed foreign assistance during a conversation with master of ceremonies Frank Sesno. Michael Froman, assistant to President Barack Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, addressed the role of the private sector in international development. And Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations, spoke about the need for sustained funding for foreign aid.
Rice, who served as Secretary of State and chair of MCC’s Board of Directors from 2005 to 2009, emphasized that U.S. Government foreign assistance “has lifted people up from all over the world for many, many decades.”
Rice acknowledged a pressure to cut foreign assistance funding and focus spending at home but believes the U.S. Government’s spending on foreign aid—which is less than 1 percent of the federal budget—is money well spent.
“I would say to the American people, yes, we need to deal with our problems here at home. But just look at what's going on around the world. Just look at all the preventable disease. Just look at all of the children who could be saved. You'll want to have American foreign assistance be a part of that story.”
During Rice’s tenure as chair of MCC’s Board, the agency signed 16 compacts worth more than $6.3 billion and 20 Threshold Programs totaling almost $439 million. She called MCC “A story of shared success.”
“I've always thought that American foreign policy—indeed, America—is at its best in the world when our interests and our values come together. And I can think of no better example of our interests and our values coming together than MCC.”
Froman—who is responsible for coordinating policy on international trade, financial, energy security, climate change, development, and democracy issues—discussed the changing role of the U.S. Government in foreign assistance.
“From the planning of development programs, to their coordination with other donors, to their implementation, and through the data-driven evaluation of their effectiveness, we recognize we have to do more with less,” he said. “But we also recognize we have to do better from beginning to end.”
Froman called MCC “a critical input to the administration's development policy since the first days of the administration.”
“MCC's experience has been enormously helpful as we've worked to make our assistance more effective, including by leveraging public sector reform and private sector capital flows,” he said. “And one of the lessons of the MCC is the power of example and the importance of incentives.”
Leahy, who is the most senior member of the Appropriations and Agriculture committees, noted that, “What we have to do is focus on what we get for the money—not just spending more money, but what do we get for it. … I commend MCC for working on that. We have to make sure we're getting the direct feedback from the intended beneficiaries.”
“I have to fight every year in the Senate and the Congress to get money for foreign aid,” he said. “It's not the most popular thing to ask for, although it's one of the most important things in a great country like ours, and I'll keep fighting for it.”
To watch a video of the Forum, click here.