Remarks to the Millennium Challenge Corporation

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Millennium Challenge Corporation
Washington, DC
November 27, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, all. Thank you. Well, it’s wonderful to be here and to have this opportunity to tell you in person how much I value the work that you do every day. I’m aware that it’s not only those of you in this room that are part of this event today, but also by video conference and those who are calling in from around the world. And my first and most important message is how proud I am of you and how grateful I am for what you are doing, which truly has made the differences that Daniel has just briefly outlined.

For the past four years, and then before that as a senator, I’ve had the privilege of supporting MCC and seen the impact of the work that you do on the ground. I’ve joined your CEO in several occasions signing new compacts and have certainly seen the impact that that has had on the way that governments have prepared and organized themselves in order to be successful.

So today we are welcomed in 35 countries. People around the world are eager to partner with MCC and even willing to try to meet the standards that have been devised for such a partnership. And that speaks volumes about the work that all of you and your predecessors have done to establish a new approach to development as part of America’s foreign policy agenda.

I remember last year Daniel and I were in Tanzania, standing in front of what looked like, because it was, a huge jet engine, and getting ready to symbolically throw the switch on a new power plant that would provide reliable electricity for thousands of nearby homes, businesses, and hospitals. I remember thinking about what a wonderful metaphor that was, because we truly were turning on opportunity, turning on the chance that would be given to people to be able to make more of their own lives, helping Tanzanians tap into their own power so their country could grow and prosper.

And that’s really true with what you do everywhere. I’ve seen the solar projects in El Salvador that are helping to light small homes and provide a connectivity to the outside world that had not been there before. I’ve supported strongly the cause of helping Jordan conserve and recycle water for use, finding ways to spur green growth in Indonesia, and so much more.

Now, in addition to what you’ve done around the world, you’ve also had a big impact here at home. MCC’s model showcases some of our best thinking about how to do development for the 21st century, and has helped to set the stage for the Administration’s approach for development, because at a time when we must look for the way to maximize the impact of every dollar that we spend on development, we often turn to MCC for information and inspiration.

As Daniel said, in this Administration under President Obama, we’ve tried to put forth a new policy on development that really focuses on results, and MCC has been one of the foundational institutions that has given us the base for moving forward. We are working to put ourselves out of business, to hasten the day when countries no longer need foreign assistance. So we are pursuing country-owned efforts that are led, implemented, and eventually paid for by a nation’s own government, communities, civil society, and private sector.

That’s really the path that MCC has helped to blaze, because you work directly with governments to identify development priorities and to design country-specific plans that are backed by hard data. You put a focus on building local capacity and rewarding good governance, an approach that we are building on in all of our development work, including major programs like the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future.

For me, this is a real mission, because we understand completely that we have to demonstrate unequivocally that the United States is willing to help those who are willing to help themselves. That doesn’t mean that we overlook or back away from our pure humanitarian assistance, something that USAID is a real leader in and must continue to provide, but we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and not getting better results. And because of the standards that you’ve set and the accountability and evaluations that you have imposed upon yourself, we are beginning to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t work.

Now, that is not always popular, and it’s not always easy, because we’re all human. People get used to doing things a certain way, and then can, on an anecdotal level, see results that reinforce the patterns that they’ve engaged in. But we can no longer afford to do development like that. We have to have better data, harder analysis, more accountability, both for us, but also for the countries and people with whom we work. We look to MCC for helping to bring about that strategic shift that we’re making in our development work from aid to investment and looking at the risk-reward calculation, literally expecting to be able better to calculate a rate of return.

Now sometimes that does mean suspending and even terminating contracts when host governments are not living up to their end of the agreement, as you did in Mali and briefly in Malawi. Those are hard choices to make. But I think they have a positive effect. Just speaking about Malawi, for example, we were able to get the attention of the previous government and make a strong case to the incoming government that the MCC, which had been working in Malawi, would disappear, that we could not continue it if democracy was not maintained, if the rule of law did not stand firm in making the transition from the President, who passed away, to the Vice President.

And I often use you shamelessly – (laughter) – as I’m engaging with presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and others about what we can do for them if they’re willing to do things for themselves. And I think we’re employing some of these same ideas and strategies in the Partnership for Growth countries.

Now we’re looking ahead to the next step of our development agenda. We need to build a broader network of partners at the local level and national levels, and we’re looking at MCC’s comparative procurements processes, your work with local management companies, and other lessons that we can learn.

It’s important that as we talk about country-led and country-owned, we put real meat on the bones. I spoke at length about this at the International Development Conference in Busan, South Korea earlier this year. Because it can just be a slogan, in which case, nothing really changes. It can be an excuse for setting countries up for failure, to be able to say, “We told you so.” Or it can be a difficult but rewarding path forward. Obviously, we hope it’s the latter.

But there are things countries have to do for themselves. And as Daniel and some of you know – collecting taxes, having your own revenues, making your elites actually pay for schools and health and infrastructure – things that are just beyond the pale in some countries that have no ability or willingness to try to do so. Looking at transparency and using electronic technology to bring about transparency, whether countries want it or not, having a real firm grip on what can be done to stamp out corruption. And this has to be not only our mission in the United States with our various institutions – MCC, USAID, State, DOD, all of us – but it needs to be globally enforced. And we’re beginning to see some movement in that direction as well.

So when I came in, I said I wanted to elevate development and diplomacy to be on a par with defense, that we needed to start thinking of the so-called three Ds as part of our smart power framework for foreign policy and national security. And I really believe we’ve gone a long way toward achieving that, and we need to continue. We can’t rest. We have to keep making reforms. We have to ask hard questions. We have to be unafraid to expose our own shortcomings and the problems that we have. Some people worry about that, that that will mean that the Congress or the American public won’t support us. I actually think it’s contrary. I think greater transparency, internally and externally, gives us a stronger platform to build on for the programs that we think are worth investing in, and MCC is certainly at the top of the line there.

So this is a high priority for me personally, it certainly is as Secretary of State, and as chair honorary or whatever I am – (laughter) – for the MCC board. The model of the board is something that I highly value, having outside, independent, private representatives. All of what you’re trying to do really has pushed our development agenda, so I hope that you will continue to set a high standard, to produce results, to do tough evaluations, finding out what works and what doesn’t work, what’s worth funding and not worth funding, and continue to give me and my successor, whoever that might be, a good talking point. When I say, “You won’t be eligible for an MCC compact if you don’t do this,” it actually does open eyes and get attention. So we will continue to do that so long as you continue to give us a good story to tell, and I’m confident that you will. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

So, Daniel, I’m willing to take a few questions.

MODERATOR: Sure. All right. So we have a question. Linda – I mean Sarah.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Wellesley. (Laughter.) Go Wellesley. (Laughter.) A shameless pander that I fully appreciate. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thanks for being here and for your support for MCC. I’m just wondering over your past four years of experience, as you look into the next administration, what do you think our Administration’s priorities for development should be?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think they should be continuing and accelerating a lot of the reforms that we’re already undertaking and enhancing even more the rigorous analysis that needs to go along with any of these reforms. I really still believe we have to do a better job integrating and coordinating what we do across our government, because it is not possible to replicate and duplicate everything that somebody else is doing. One of our goals has been to try to bring all of our development efforts in countries together so that we know what’s happening.

And I will just tell you, as a First Lady and as a Senator, when I would travel, as I did widely, I would often find – and this was pre-MCC days as well as post-MCC days – that somebody would be there on a USAID project or a CDC project or a DOL project, and they would never even talk to each other. They would rarely be in the same room. And so the countries we were working with were, understandably, somewhat confused. I mean, who would we talk to, who’s more important than somebody else? Well, everybody’s doing something which we think is important, or hopefully we would not be there.

But if we don’t better coordinate and integrate what we’re doing, we won’t get the biggest impact. So that if MCC is building a road, it might make sense for USAID to fund a hospital that will be accessible by the road. Just saying – (laughter) – that kind of thing makes sense to me. Or for PEPFAR to be closely coordinating with CDC and USAID on the delivery of health systems reform, because it’s all part of the same government, the same taxpayers, and hopefully to reach the same results.

So I think we’ve made a start, but it’s hard. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you it isn’t. It is hard, because different organizations have different cultures, different jurisdictions in the Congress, you’ve got different committees so nobody wants to be shorted in their committee by giving any benefit to another committee that oversees a different organization in the government. So it’s a little maddening, but we’ve been working very hard to try to move forward.

I think also being sure that we have more insight into cost savings that are achievable. It won’t surprise you to hear that I am pretty obsessed with procurement reform here at MCC, at USAID, and elsewhere. I mean, it makes no sense that we’d be in a country and you’d have one group buying furniture separate from another group, or vehicles when we should be getting cost benefits and scales of economy that – I mean, it’s – ultimately, it’s all the American taxpayer dollar, so we should be smarter about how we do procurement. And we should be smarter about our overall platforms. We have the foreign aid website, where we’re trying to be really transparent about all of this.

So we’ve got a good start, but we have a long way to go in order to be able to be as effective and accountable with every dollar that we spend in development. And I do think we have to keep pushing our multilateral partners, both governments and NGOs, to be on the same page as we are, because then we’ll get more bang for our mutual investments.

And finally, I guess I would say that there are certain expectations that everybody in our government should have from the governments that they deal with. So it can’t be just MCC saying, “Corruption, corruption, corruption is a big problem.” Everybody needs to say that. And we need to be creative and smart about how we convey that effectively.

So I’m excited. I think that we could, in the next four years, really institutionalize a lot of the changes that we’ve been undertaking and be a real global leader in how we deliver aid and how we further investment. And MCC should be right at the frontline of that.


QUESTION: Should I wait, or do you just want me to start?

Madam Secretary, good morning. I’m Linda Herda with Congressional and Public Affairs. Welcome to MCC. You as a First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State, you have met some amazing people during your many years of public service, people that my son and all our children will read about in history books. Of all the people you’ve met, who’s the one person who you simply cannot forget, and why? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wow. Non-Americans, right? (Laughter.) Nelson Mandela. Yeah, Nelson Mandela. I mean – and for me, it was highly personal as well as – what he’s done on the public stage. Like so many people around the world, I was active in the antiapartheid movement. I was very much in favor of disinvestment and worked in organizations that promoted disinvestment, and watched when Mandela walked out of jail, and then followed closely everything that happened after that.

But the great privilege of my life was getting to know him. And I went to his inauguration as part of our official delegation led by Vice President Gore and myself. And it was an incredible experience, because we had breakfast in the morning at the President’s house with de Klerk and the outgoing Afrikaner government, then we went to the inauguration, and then we came back to the President’s house for the inaugural lunch with the new President. So it was just this eight-hour period where the real change that everybody had worked for and voted for actually occurred. And in that lunch, which was filled with all kinds of people, who were there both because they represented countries or because they had supported the ANC in its struggle – so you had Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat and Al Gore. I mean, it was – (laughter) – and, I mean, one of my jobs was to stay away from Fidel Castro, which was – (laughter) – which was what I spent my time doing, circling around the room before we sat down for lunch. (Laughter.)

But so we were at this lunch, and Mandela had given an extraordinary inaugural speech, and was one of the very first national leaders to mention the importance of equality for women, which I liked to hear. But he stood up at the lunch and he greeted all of these dignitaries, some of whom he had known before he went into prison, but most of whom had come to prominence during the 27 years he was in prison, and he said he was so honored to have all these very distinguished people from around the world, but the three most important people to him at the lunch were three of his former jailers.

And he pointed to these three white men and asked them to stand. And he said, “There were many people who were in charge of us on Robben Island during the time that I was imprisoned. But these three men treated me with dignity. And I will never forget that, and I wanted them to be here.” And sitting there, listening to that and knowing how easy it is when you are in public life, let alone someone who’s a leader of a movement who loses the most productive years of his life to being in a very small cell, which I have visited twice – and the level of self-awareness and forgiveness and humanity and compassion and smartness that that represented was just breathtaking to me.

And in the years since then, I’ve spent a lot of time with him. I went back and went to his prison cell with him. I went back another time with my husband and went to his prison cell. And if you saw the movie Invictus about how he adopted the South African rugby team, which had historically been an all-white kind of symbol of white South Africa and how he cheered them on and demonstrated great sport interest in them – his ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes. And I asked him about it one time and he said something that he has said in public, he said, “When I went into prison, I was a very angry young man, and I realized that I could not stay angry and survive as a whole person. And when I walked out of prison, I knew that if I didn’t forgive those who had imprisoned me, I’d still be imprisoned.” And it was just so wise and so extraordinarily important for the world to hear.

I visited him last summer where he now lives with his wonderful wife Graca Machel, and that smile is incandescent. And even though he’s over 90 and not in great health, he still just conveys a sense of authority and presence. So I’ve met a lot of really extraordinary people. I’ve been very fortunate to do that over the course of my life. But if I have to pick only one, for all the reasons that are well known publicly and all the lessons that I learned from him personally, it would be Nelson Mandela.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Jim Everly with our Department of Compact Operations. We work a lot in energy and water, areas that are heavily involved in climate change. I’m just wondering, Madam Secretary, what you think the 2 Ds – diplomacy and development – can do to help minimize the inequities created by global warming.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s an excellent question and it’s one that we think about a lot, because there’s no doubt that – newsflash – global warming is real – (laughter) – and that it’s having an impact around the world, particularly in places where mitigation and remediation are very expensive and hard to do, but it’s also going to have an impact everywhere. So the longer we postpone the inevitable, the higher the price, the greater the cost to all of us.

So I think what we’re trying to do here in the United States is to make progress in our own efforts, whether it’s higher gas mileage for cars or higher standards for power plants, energy – more energy efficiency, more alternative energy. But what we’ve been really struggling with is how to persuade the fast-growing economies that they need to do things like that as well. It’s very difficult to say to a Chinese or Indian person, “Oh, by the way, you shouldn’t buy that car. You shouldn’t buy an air conditioner because that’ll hurt the climate and will eventually hurt you.” And this person’s thinking my parents were totally impoverished, they had nothing, they gave me an education, I’m making a good living, and yeah, I want to buy a car, and I’d like to have air conditioning.

So part of the challenge is if we can get the technology to outpace the rapid increase in global income in a lot of the emerging countries so that we have a fighting chance to get ahead of the climate change curve, which is going in the wrong direction, as you know. That’s part of what we do with diplomacy.

Part of what we do with development is look for ways that we can help mitigate. The compact that I mentioned in Indonesia, which has a lot of potential, but we’ll see how it plays out, making common cause with countries that are facing very difficult conditions if they don’t themselves try to be part of a global community response. But I think we are really facing serious consequences because of our inability to try to get the world together to act more quickly. And I know this is a priority for the President. I know that he’s going to really focus on what more can be done that may not require Congressional action, because I’m not sure we can get the kind of action we would want out of the Congress, and then try to build up the multilateral approach as much as we can.

Now, partly out of frustration that we weren’t moving quickly enough on the UN track – although some positive developments came out of Cancun and Durban; they’re meeting in Doha right now – we formed something out of the State Department called the Clean Air and Climate Coalition to deal with the short-term climate forcers, the pollutants like methane, like soot, because carbon dioxide is the major, but not the only, contributor to what we are confronting with climate change. And in fact, if we can do something about these other pollutants we can deal with up to 40 percent of the green house gas emissions.

So we started this group with a small handful of countries. We’ve expanded it. We’re working very hard on specific deliverables. I also helped to form something called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is the contributor to black soot, black carbon, in order to try to get cleaner cookstoves that could diminish the impact. So we’re moving on a bunch of different fronts, and it’s both diplomacy and development. But everyone knows we’re not moving fast enough and one of our real problems is what we can do to lead and assume responsibility, but also what we can do to get others who, understandably, are a little bit less than enthusiastic if they think it’s going to undermine their development. And we still haven’t made an effective enough argument about why there’s an alternative path to development, because it still is more costly to do alternative energy in lots of places.

So we’re working on all of this simultaneously, but it’s a – I was in – I went to the Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands this past summer, and those little islands may disappear. They may just absolutely disappear, and you’ll have to have a lot of relocation of people, which will be very disruptive. So there are human consequences, as well as economic consequences and health consequences, that are going to have to be dealt with.

The final thing I would say is the Arctic – we’re about to see the first oil tanker go through the Arctic, because there is no ice to stop it. So we’re working through something called the Arctic Council to try to get ahead of that, to have an oil spill protocol that we would all deal with because it’s not only the potential for drilling that could be catastrophic, but it’s also an accident waiting to happen with a tanker.

So there’s – you look around the globe. This remains one of the most serious threats that all of humanity faces, and we haven’t – none of us has done enough to deal with it yet.

MODERATOR: I think we might have a question from the field, Kenny from Cape Verde.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) hear me.


QUESTION: Morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Kenny Miller. It’s my honor to address you today from the beautiful nation of Cape Verde, where as director of (inaudible) exceptional team of MCC staff in partnership with the Government of Cape Verde. MCC’s pioneer (inaudible) mix of national policy reforms (inaudible) water sanitation sector and in land management.

My question is: As you know, MCC has worked very hard to lead U.S. foreign assistance initiatives to promote economic growth alongside relatively high-performing country partners. That said, what do you see for MCC’s budgetary and operational future, as much of the limited U.S. foreign assistance funds are directed at fighting terrorism, narcotics, disaster relief, and supporting transitioning democracies?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think the question was about the budget. Right?

MODERATOR: Yes. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m sorry, Kenny. You were breaking up. So I apologize.

PARTICIPANT: We have his question here. MCC has worked hard to lead our foreign assistance initiatives in promoting economic growth alongside our relatively high-performing country partners. That said, what do you see in our budgetary future as much of the U.S. foreign assistance funds are directed to fighting terrorism, narcotics, disaster relief, and supporting transitioning democracies?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the four points that you just mentioned will continue to be a priority for the Congress and the Administration, but I also think MCC will continue to be a priority. And part of the advantage that MCC has is it’s viewed as a bipartisan institution started by George Bush. I think that gives you a built-in level of congressional support that has to be nurtured and tended all the time, but nevertheless is an important asset that MCC has.

But we all know we’re going into a difficult budget environment. Nobody will get everything they want. They just can’t. That won’t – it’s just not fiscally possible. But I’m sure MCC will be given a very positive response by the Administration and the Congress. And part of the challenge is to keep being able to do as much as possible with the resources you have because you keep learning how to do it better. And that, in itself, is confidence building.

So I think MCC’s budget will be certainly given a positive hearing both in the Administration and the Congress, and the more MCC can be positioned as a leading development agency around the world and as one that has learned lessons that will hopefully benefit all development agencies, I think the argument for MCC’s budget just gets stronger.

MODERATOR: One more question, Joan.

QUESTION: Joan (inaudible) from Congressional Affairs. Same lines as Kenny – it’s another budget question, sorry. As you noted, MCC has provided critical points of leverage, both as a carrot and stick, in U.S. diplomatic engagement, and that’s been particularly true over the last year in Mali, Malawi, Georgia, El Salvador, Senegal. And so as the Administration is working with Congress to avoid a fiscal cliff scenario, will you, as chairman of our board and as Secretary of State, advocate for MCC as a priority program that should be protected from disproportionate budget cuts?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m in favor of all my programs. (Laughter.) And if I were in front of USAID or the State Department, I would be asked the same question. (Laughter.) So I think – look, the negotiations going on over the lame duck are going to affect every program, and I can’t, standing here, determine what is going to be considered proportionate or disproportionate. Obviously, we in the State Department and I personally believe strongly that MCC is an important program that has proven itself and has to be adequately funded in order to continue the good work and to have the disproportionate impact on development theory and practice that MCC is having.

But let’s be candid. I mean, if it’s a choice between Head Start or School Lunch and the 150 Account, that’s going to be a harder case to make. So we are doing everything we can, and will continue to, to make the case that the 150 Account is important for our country and for our security and for the kind of world we want to live in, and the better governance that we find around the world, the greater transparency, the less corruption. More accountability is good for the people in those countries, but it’s also good for the United States.

So we have a very strong case to make, but I’ve been on both sides of this and it’s a very difficult undertaking. So you keep doing your job, which is to be the – along with your colleagues – the voices and reminders as to what we’ve already accomplished in a relatively short period of time with MCC. And I’m certainly working to do everything I can to protect the 150 Account, which is bigger than MCC but which does represent our commitment to the kind of world that we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in.

So we have no way to predict what’s going to happen, what’s going to be the final decisions on how the pie will be sliced and what will be cut off in order to meet the spending cuts that will have to be made in order to reach a deal in the Congress. It’s going to be a very difficult negotiation, and I know that the President and the White House are doing everything they can to shape it in a way that reflects our values and our interests at home and around the world, and MCC will be a part of that.

MODERATOR: I think that’s it. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for being here and for your support of MCC and the entire development community.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give our Secretary a big round of applause, all right? (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Thank you all.

PRN: 2012/1851