United States Resumes Aid Program in Niger

The United States will resume assisting Niger according to the terms of a pact designed to help developing nations promote good governance, national responsibility and measurable results.

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The board of directors of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, voted unanimously June 22 to reinstate an assistance charter with Niger in recognition of its return to democratic rule, the corporation announced.

The MCC, an independent U.S. foreign aid corporation, collaborates with countries committed to good governance, economic freedom and investment in their citizens to help lead the fight against global poverty.

The $23.1 million threshold program for Niger focuses on improving education for women, local governance, anti-corruption efforts and good business practices.

MCC threshold programs award grants to countries close to meeting MCC criteria but not yet eligible for the larger five-year compact grants. Countries qualifying for the threshold program must demonstrate their commitment to policy improvements in three categories: ruling justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom.

The corporation suspended the threshold program with Niger in December 2009 after political events there were deemed inconsistent with eligibility criteria.

“MCC’s decision to reinstate Niger’s threshold partner status is not only an affirmation of Niger’s return to democratic and constitutional rule, but it demonstrates the importance MCC places on working with countries whose leaders promote democratic principles to advance the well-being, development and security of their people,” said MCC Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yohannes in a statement June 24. An MCC delegation will go to Niger in early July to discuss resuming the program.

Yohannes called Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou to inform him of MCC’s intention to reinstate the program. During the call, Yohannes said, “We celebrate the restoration of a democratically elected government in Niger and look forward to working with your government to reduce poverty by promoting economic growth.”

President Issoufou’s inauguration in April marked the return of a government elected directly by the people of Niger.

The charter of the MCC, a U.S. government corporation created in 2004, asserts that aid is most effective when it helps countries achieve their own development objectives within a framework of sound political, economic and social policies. The MCC supports country-determined projects worldwide in agriculture and irrigation, transportation, water supply and sanitation, health care, finance and enterprise development, anti-corruption, land rights and education.

“MCC recognizes that our work has greater impact and is more sustainable in countries that rule justly, invest in their people, and provide economic freedom,” Yohannes said. “The credibility and the goodwill generated through successful country ownership of our programs has generated a keen desire for countries to partner with MCC. As a result, we are seeing countries across the developing world make reforms in an effort to meet our strict eligibility criteria and to receive MCC funding.”

MCC has approved $495 million in threshold assistance to more than 20 countries.

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