- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In an election year, there is heightened debate and discussion about what issues are important to America. Part of this discussion focuses on how we spend taxpayer money beyond our shores. At a time when every dollar counts, Americans want to know what their money is doing abroad and if it yields a return for them here at home.

While it might not at first be obvious, the fight against global poverty offers Americans the win-win outcome they demand.

Americans want to know why we are spending money in faraway countries when pockets of poverty exist right in our own neighborhoods. Minimizing despair, hopelessness and resentment abroad, which can be breeding grounds for extremism and anti-democratic policies, are clearly in our interest. Fighting poverty goes a long way to enhance America’s image in the hearts and minds of those we help, and to counter misguided stereotypes about our country, which are prevalent in many regions today.

A disturbing trend in the field of development makes me think helping the poor now, like never before, is more than just the right thing to do as compassionate and generous Americans. Development assistance is in America’s national security interests. Seeing more and more nondemocratic regimes pour billions of dollars in what they call “development assistance” into poor countries is alarming, while they look the other way as these recipient countries fail to tackle corruption, or include their citizens in the political process, or make necessary reforms. It is what Moises Naim of Foreign Policy Magazine aptly calls, “toxic… rogue aid. It is development assistance that is nondemocratic in origin and nontransparent in practice; its effect is typically to stifle real progress while hurting average citizens.”

Americans, to our credit, expect more from our tax dollars invested abroad to help the poor. We demand tangible results. We insist on accountability. We want proof that our aid is, in fact, reaching the poor, promoting reforms, protecting the environment, educating children, fighting diseases, building democracy, and opening markets, rather than lining the bank accounts of corrupt politicians.

In contrast, “rogue aid” perpetuates the cycle of poverty and expects no accountability, Americans want to maximize our assistance to break that cycle and create a culture of responsibility and, in so doing, prevent the consequences of poverty from reaching our own shores.

Reflecting American values of accountability and responsibility, the Millennium Challenge Corp. was established as a new, innovative way to deliver U.S. assistance to the world’s poorest countries.

Millennium Challenge assistance is awarded only to countries committed to governing justly, investing in their own people’s health and education, and supporting economic freedom. As a result, even before America commits to providing one cent of help through MCC, we often see countries embrace reforms to qualify for the money.

These countries are making tough political, economic and social changes by tackling corruption and encouraging the full participation of their people in the political process. They are changing laws to make it easier to open a business or own property. They are educating and immunizing their children and protecting their environment.

The Millennium Challenge Corp.’s approach to development offers a striking contrast to “rogue aid,” and is the best hope for countries to break free from poverty once and for all, through their own will. That’s why assistance — delivered in this way — is a core strategy in America’s fight against poverty, and instrumental to America’s interests.

I am proud that Americans continue to invest in a better way to fight poverty, and I trust America’s next president will keep us engaged globally and moving forward on this path.

John J. Danilovich is chief executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp. and a former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica and Brazil.

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