MCC talks up role of private sector in annual forum

Condoleezza Rice speaks April 29 at the 2013 Millennium Challenge Corp.'s Forum on Global Development in Washington. Photo by: MCC

Return on investment. Private sector engagement. They’re fast becoming pillars of development cooperation, and were at the center of a lively event Monday in Washington that featured former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a host of other government and corporate leaders.

The Millennium Challenge Corp.’s 2013 Forum on Global Development was held April 29 in partnership with Chevron and the United Nations Foundation. Speakers included MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes; Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator from Vermont; and Dwayne De Rosario, a midfielder with the D.C. United soccer club.

Rice praised the work of MCC, whose board she chaired 2005-09 during her time as the country’s top diplomat, noting that the most pressing foreign affairs issue in the coming years will be governance and the path from the “seizure of freedom” to democracy, as she put it, referencing the Arab Spring.

Her advice to peers: “Be patient; pay attention to the infrastructure, to what happens underneath” that could quickly change the status quo, as the suicide of an unemployed street vendor did when it helped to galvanize protests across North Africa and the Middle East two years ago.

“Private sector investment is key to global development,” Rice said. “Foreign assistance shouldn’t be a permanent station in life.”

Chevron’s work in the Niger Delta was held up as a model business-led approach to development cooperation. Through the work of its foundations, and in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders both local and international, the company is helping to create jobs, reduce conflict and build local capacity, said Dennis Flemming, project director of the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative, set up by Chevron and funded by a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“We’re trying to use this platform in a way that we can create something sustainable, something that can work for a broad range of partners, and something that is positioned as a catalyst for development,” Flemming told Devex.

It was a mindset that other corporate leaders at Monday’s event would easily agree with. Brian Kelley, president and CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which was honored with MCC’s 2013 Corporate Award for its support of fair trade and sustainable farming, noted, for instance, how consumers don’t so much buy products anymore but “the values of a brand.”

The MCC event also featured the MCC Country Commitment Award for Sophia Malikotsi Mohapi, the CEO of Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho, and the Next Generation Award for Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman, co-founders of Uncharted Play.

Find out more about the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative and its African cousin, the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta.

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