Global Development Assistance: What can we accomplish when we get it right?
Our second plenary discussion focused on foreign aid effectiveness. The panel participants included H.E. Cyrille S. Oguin, the Ambassador of Benin, Cheryl Morden of International Fund for Agricultural Development and Dr. Francisco Gutierrez of Accion Medica Cristiana, Nicaragua.
Ambassador Oguin of Benin started our conversation by discussing the impact of the Millennium Challenge Account funding in his country. He stated, "Foreign aid is crucially needed, but it really works. It brings wonderful results."
Benin became eligible for MCC funding in 2004. Over the course of two years, Benin went through a long consultative process to create a development plan. The compact was signed in February 2006 for $307 million. The compact addresses the problems of the development chain in a coherent way. The Ambassador offered an example of land tenure issues. The program offers titles for owners to show that they own the land. It empowers people to claim their land and show proof of their ownership. The program is estimated to touch 5 million people in their country. If the program succeeds, it will lift 250,000 people out of poverty.
The compact involves civil society, the media, local government, universities - everyone is involved with this project. Over one hundred NGOs were involved with creating the compact and they are still engaged with implementing the funding. It allowed Benin to take the lead and set the agenda for the implementation.
MCA-Benin was formed as the management agency in Benin to oversee the project funding. It has a board of 11 people and program management staff. The program includes reporting and feedback to ensure its effectiveness. As a sign of their own commitment to the MCA programs, Benin committed $10 million of their own funding to the program.
The United States is one of the largest bilateral donors to Benin. Ambassador Oguin said, "The MCC is a good model when it comes to ownership." The Ambassador is not claiming the program is perfect - there is always room for improvement. He feels there are ways to increase coherency and coordination among other development programs.
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