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CGD has helped shape the Millennium Challenge Corporation through years of analysis dating back to the creation of its financing mechanism—the Millennium Challenge Account—by President Bush in 2002. Our research has helped guide MCC’s work to reduce poverty through growth and we remain at the forefront of creative thought for how to improve this important lever of US foreign assistance.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent US foreign assistance agency, was established with broad bipartisan support in January 2004. The
agency was designed to deliver aid differently, with a mission and model reflecting key principles of aid effectiveness.
A key pillar of MCC’s model is its focus on policy performance. One of MCC’s defining characteristics is that it provides funding only to countries that demonstrate commitment to good governance and growth-friendly policies.
MCC’s model has received much recognition. However, since the agency controls just a small portion of the US foreign assistance budget, it alone has not fulfilled — and cannot be expected to fulfill — the founding vision of transforming US foreign assistance policy. Partly in response to the recommendations stemming from the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Global Development, the larger agencies, especially the US Agency for International Development (USAID), have commendably worked to incorporate many of the same principles included in MCC’s model. For the most part, however, those principles are applied to a still-limited portion of the overall US foreign assistance portfolio. The next US president should continue to support MCC as a separate institution and support efforts to more thoroughly extend the good practices promoted in MCC’s model throughout US foreign assistance in general.
Of all the governance criteria MCC assesses, none is as singularly important as corruption, which, historically, has weeded out more countries for eligibility than any other individual factor. It is, however, difficult to measure with precision, which can (and has) lead to poor decisions when interpreted too rigidly, resulting in cutting off, purely on the basis of indicator rules, compact partnerships with countries that have had no demonstrable change in their anticorruption environment. If you care about corruption, this isn’t the way to go about emphasizing that.
One of the key pillars of MCC’s model is that country ownership matters for results. In broad terms, the idea of country ownership is that donors’ engagement with developing countries should reflect the understanding that partner country governments, in consultation with key stakeholders, should lead the development and implementation of their own national strategies and that foreign aid should largely serve to strengthen recipients’ capacity to exercise this role.