As part of this week's UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, heads of state, foreign ministers and others met Tuesday on using development to fight global poverty.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is part of that effort. The MCC is a U.S. government corporation that partners with poor countries to promote good governance and economic investment.
Acting MCC head Darius Mans says of this week's meeting, "There's a very big agenda that's very important not just to MCC, but to the world…. Climate change is very high on the agenda, as is…the global crisis on the world economy. The opportunities for growth and poverty reduction…is at the core of MCC's mission.
UNGA talk fest or working meeting?
"I think a lot, hopefully, will get done because we are at such an important time in the world. And many of the developing countries…have come to New York very hopeful that progress can be made…. Today we're going to be talking about the challenge of capacity building and country ownership."
The MCC supports "country ownership" or country-led development programs.
"They'll be asking: can developing countries take the lead in providing the driving force for using money effectively. And that, too, is at the heart of MCC's model," he says.
Ghana is a good example
President Obama visited Ghana in July, after the G8 summit in Italy.
"He focused on the importance of good governance and economic opportunity. Ghana, I think, is a good demonstration. It's a country that put together a program which is focused on the root causes of poverty and the key constraints to economic growth," he says.
He says $547 million has been spent "on achieving real results. It's not even at the halfway mark and already we see tremendous, concrete results on the ground for the people of Ghana."
As a result, he says, Ghana is now seeing an increase in both domestic and international investment.
Not a hand out
"We see this as an investment in countries. It's a leg up, not a hand out…. So there is a lot of accountability (and) transparency around it. Our business plans for every country are on the web, including the performance indicators that we use to judge progress," he says.
He says such oversight was missing in aid programs of the past.
One of the goals of the MCC is to help countries reach the Millennium Development Goals.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
But during the global economic crisis, what's the status of the MDGs?
"Well, there…has been progress in too few cases in being able to actually achieve the Millennium Development Goals, but some countries have. I think one good example is Cape Verde…. It's now going into the fourth of the five-year (MCC) grant program. And they've made remarkable progress," he says.
The Obama administration is asking for a more than 60 percent increase in the MCC budget in the new fiscal year, says Mans, despite tough economic times.
"So that we could partner with more countries around the world."
The Millennium Challenge Corporation currently has 19 partner countries.
"Good governance is at the heart of the MCC approach. It is a reward for good performance…. And control of corruption is a hard indicator for us. It's one that countries must pass to be eligible for MCC assistance," he says.