It is an honor for the Millennium Challenge Corporation to participate in the opening ceremonies of this ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies and I would like to thank all of you who have made this meeting possible.
We are here in Bamako because we believe in democracy and democracy’s transformational power to unlock the full potential of a country and its citizens. Democracy promotes stability, transparency, and accountability —the strongest foundations possible for economic prosperity.
Good government, good governance, and economic growth are intertwined; they are a package deal.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a program of the United States Government, is dedicated to reducing poverty through economic growth, and we are proud to partner with countries committed to increasing their democratic practices and strengthening their democratic institutions.
We see this commitment in our 16 MCC Compact partner countries in Africa, Central America, Eurasia, and the Pacific, and in 17 more countries worldwide participating in MCC threshold programs.
We see this in the fact that the vast majority of MCC partner countries are not only participants in the Community of Democracies but also aggressive policy reformers working to strengthen democracy and promote economic freedom.
Development of a country’s democratic institutions and development of its economy are complementary. MCC is working with countries committed to both.
Development assistance can be used to encourage, deepen, and reinforce democracy that, in turn, sustains economic development. We see this in at least three ways.
First, practicing sound policies as measured by transparent, independent, third party sources is critical for democracy and development. Our partners are committed to good governance, to furthering civil liberties and political rights, to investing in health and education, to promoting economic freedom, and to fighting corruption, because the surest way to choke economic development is by tolerating corruption.
These policies, in turn, create the best environment for sustaining economic growth.
I would like to give you some examples. Tanzania, has been implementing an MCC-funded anticorruption threshold program while developing its compact. By training investigative journalists in that country, media stories exposing corruption have skyrocketed from an average of 20 per month to more than 136 per month. Procurement audits are addressing weaknesses in the government’s procurement system and increasing transparency in this critical area.
Tanzania is not alone in this effort. The fight against corruption is also underway in Malawi, Zambia, Paraguay, and Indonesia. And, right here in Mali, the National Audit Office is working diligently to uncover corruption and fraud.
Second, empowering women is critical for sustaining democracy and economic growth. MCC’s gender policy reinforces and protects economic opportunity for women, but we see the greatest impact when our partner countries themselves work to ensure that women, alongside men, are involved in every stage of MCC assistance.
In Benin, over 100 local civil society organizations elected representatives to the working group to design that country’s compact; and representatives of Benin’s leading NGO promoting women’s rights played an instrumental role in expressing the views of rural women and addressing the interrelated issues of land ownership and agricultural production.
Helping women realize their political and economic rights not only is central to any discussion of democracy and growth but also ensures that development reaches a country’s poorest families.
Third and finally, countries taking responsibility for their development through their strengthening their own institutions deepens democracy and sustains economic growth.
That’s why MCC does not ask countries to circumvent their own institutions but rather to engage them—to ask NGOs, elected officials, the private sector, and the media to play their roles.
We believe that, in the long run, this approach will deepen democracy.
This engagement happens, in part, through a consultative process that works through domestic institutions.
During compact development, we ask partner countries to gather input from members of their civil societies, particularly from the poor themselves, through broadly-based, participatory consultations, and to rely upon this feedback to create their compact proposal.
To create El Salvador’s compact, over 2,500 Salvadorans were involved in the consultative process, and their ongoing input continues to be critical during implementation.
Ghana is using the consultative process that led to its MCC Compact to now evaluate non-MCC funded activities.
Then, democracy and development are furthered as partner countries continue to work with and through democratic institutions during compact implementation.
We see both government and civil society members participate on implementation oversight boards in Madagascar and Cape Verde.
We see elected representatives in the legislatures of Vanuatu and Ghana reviewing, debating, and ratifying compacts.
We see locally-elected officials and development councils in Nicaragua and Armenia coordinate priorities to ensure their constituents benefit from compact investments.
And, we see the governments of El Salvador and Madagascar include their Millennium Challenge grants within their national budget documents.
Foreign assistance plays a significant role in fostering democracy; it CAN and SHOULD be designed to strengthen good governance, incentivize anticorruption efforts, support participation by all segments of society, and empower countries to build their own democratic capacity and institutions.
Deepening democracy also creates a better environment in which the private sector can thrive, powering the true engine that drives sustainable growth and reduces poverty.
Economic development and democracy go hand-in-hand.
Democracy in practice, though, can be, at times, challenging. At MCC, we continue to respect the processes underway in partner countries, even as we balance the expectations from our own democracy demanding faster results from our investments against existing in-country realities.
We firmly believe that MCC’s approach to development assistance is a proactive and effective contribution to strengthening democracy and economic growth.
This is how results will take root and flourish. And, this is how our Millennium Challenge Corporation partner countries around the world are leveraging U.S. government assistance—on their own and with their own solutions—to reduce poverty and sustain economic growth.