MCC: Moving Forward by Looking Back — Lessons Learned on Transparency

Please see below for a guest post from MFAN’s Accountability Working Group Co-Chairs, Diana Ohlbaum and Lori Rowley. Ohlbaum is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Rowley is the Director for Global Food Security and Aid Effectiveness at The Lugar Center.

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This week one of the federal government’s youngest agencies, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), will once again demonstrate its leadership and forward thinking on accountability and transparency.  After ten years of experience, and with a new Chief Executive Officer at its helm, the MCC is launching a series of events examining what it has learned and what it has accomplished.   This period of reflection will help MCC seize the opportunity to consolidate its gains and stake out the vanguard in data-driven, locally-owned and self-sustaining development.

The test of true leadership, however, is in the extent to which others are motivated to follow.  To inform and inspire the rest of the United States Government, as well as other donors and development practitioners, the MCC this week will release a paper on transparency as part of its “Principles into Practice” series. The new paper details not only the reasons behind making transparency a core principle of MCC operations – such as providing checks against corruption, building public confidence, increasing coordination, and supporting informed participation – but also some of the limits and risks to full disclosure.  For instance, there may be personally identifiable information contained in data sets, national security information contained in meeting notes, or procurement-sensitive information in planning documents.  By demonstrating how it balances these risks, and by describing its systems to ensure that data is reviewed and released in a timely, responsive and accessible manner, the MCC performs a valuable service for governments and civil society alike.

On Friday, February 6, at 10:00 am, MFAN and the Brookings Institution will co-host an event highlighting the MCC’s efforts to make its operations more transparent and accountable.  Following a presentation by Beth Tritter, the MCC’s new Vice President for Policy and Evaluation, representatives of the World Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will discuss the challenges they faced, lessons they learned, and best practices they identified for sharing data and opening their processes.  Among the MCC’s key findings are the need for committed leadership and the importance of generating demand for data.  We encourage MCC’s new CEO, Dana Hyde, to carry forward the agency’s high standards in being transparent.  And since accountability requires not only transparency and use of data to support improved outcomes but also feedback, participating in this event and putting MCC’s data and information to the test is one way that we can all help the MCC put its principles into practice.

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