On April 25, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) held its inaugural “Forum on Global Development,” at the George Washington University (GWU) Jack Morton Auditorium, featuring an awards presentation that recognized an exemplary partner corporation, partner country, and individual partner. The event also included a brief panel discussion, several short speeches, and video presentations from Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council; Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist for The Washington Post; and Sheila Herrling, MCC’s Vice President for Policy and Evaluation.
In his opening remarks, Daniel Yohannes, CEO of MCC, presented the case for the MCC’s development model, explaining that since it began in 2004, the MCC has been on the cutting edge of development reform insofar as it has always held partner countries to high standards and demanded that its investments show a positive return. Frank Sesno, the moderator of the event and CNN Correspondent, reiterated Yohannes sentiments, claiming that while much of the day’s news is “dominated by backsliding and conflict, the MCC’s efforts represent what’s right about the world.” He emphasized the role of social media and technology, pointing out that the younger generation is capable of informing and mobilizing large groups of people through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. He said that the success of development efforts often hinges on what he called “the power of story,” the use of narrative to inspire people to action.
Rep. David Drier (R-CA) spoke on the successes of the House Democracy Partnership, which he has spearheaded since its inception in 2005. The House Democracy Partnership collaborates with sixteen developing countries to help strengthen democratic institutions. The Congressman praised the MCC for not being as wasteful as past U.S. foreign aid programs, and said that “international development is one of the most exciting areas of U.S. foreign policy.” He also mentioned that the Arab Spring could represent a great opportunity for MCC to do more extensive work in the Middle East and North Africa.
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wollin presented the MCC’s Corporate Award to Visa Inc. and spoke briefly on the potential of e-banking to drive economic growth in the developing world. Accepting the award, Visa’s Global Head of Corporate Relations, Doug Michelman, styled himself as the “unapologetic capitalist” of the event and explained that Visa’s interest in improving access to financial services in the developing world is both philanthropic and business-minded in nature. He said that “people have a right to high quality financial tools,” and that Visa is doing its best to extend its services to everyone on the planet, noting that an important aspect of Visa’s development strategy is recognizing that needs and solutions to problems are often local in nature.
Ritu Sharma, co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide and an MFAN Principal, presented the MCC’s Country Commitment Award to representatives of Mongolia. She praised MCC’s focus on gender integration and development, saying that it has already led many nations to focus on promoting gender equality.
Lastly, MCC’s Next Generation Award was presented to Johnny Dorsey, founder of FACE AIDS and the Global Health Corps, by actress Minka Kelly with remarks from Michael Elliott, President and CEO of ONE. Elliot praised Dorsey, saying that his generation is “both terrifying and inspiring.” He concluded by saying he has tremendous hope in young people to solve issues related to global poverty. Dorsey spoke of the importance of mobilizing today’s youth in order to solve the problems of poverty and disease. He said that not only are young people doing good work today, but the fact that they are inspired to solve these problems means that as they gradually become the next generation’s leaders, they will remain committed to alleviating poverty and improving health worldwide. He closed by saying that in today’s world it should be considered unacceptable for so many people to die prematurely because of a lack of access to basic medical services.