Sunday, 20 November 2011

Maurice Strong- the master mind of UNEP, Carbon schemes and corruption at United Nations designs the map for upcoming RIO+20


By Maurice Strong

NOVEMBER 2011, 2011 (IPS) - The progress made since the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference in our understanding of environmental issues and our capacity to address them effectively is impressive. Unfortunately, the lack of sufficient progress in the implementation of the commitments made by governments at the 1992 Earth Summit have left us on a course that is unsustainable and indeed threatens the future of humankind, writes Maurice Strong, Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General of Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

In this article Strong writes the objective of the Rio+20 Conference (4-6 June 2012) is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress made to date and the gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits, and address new and emerging challenges.

Current economic and political difficulties, however, now pre-empt the attention of governments and the public, undermining the prospects of effective action at Rio+20 to establish the green economy. Rio+20 must produce powerful new momentum towards its realisation at the national, local, and global level. Strong writes that cities are the centres of our civilisation -the principal sources of environmental deterioration but also the principal sources of solutions. The greening of our cities must be at the centre of our efforts.

(*) Maurice Strong is Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General of Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. He was the Secretary-General of the 1992 Earth Summit and the first Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme ( (END)

Sha Zukang of UN-DESA doesn't give a damn about United Nations - he is here only to promote CHINA !

Click here for story at UN-DPI

UN and China launch joint initiative to promote ecosystem management

Ecosystem management pivotal in securing a green economy

18 November 2011 –
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and China’s academy of sciences today launched a joint programme designed to promote proper management of ecosystems in developing countries, with a special focus on Africa.

The International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP), an initiative of the UNEP and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), will have the core mandate of synthesizing the science of ecosystem management for government decision-makers through monitoring, capacity-building and policy.

With ecosystems increasingly under threat as a result of a growing population, highrates of deforestation and transformation into agricultural and pasturelands, the role of ecosystem management has become more important than ever, according to UNEP.

The future of human civilization and sustainable development depends on sound, healthy and resilient ecosystems. For too long, humanity has ignored this fundamental truth at its own peril

The IEMP, based in China, is UNEP’s first South-South cooperation programme to promote sustainable development through sharing best practices and technology among developing countries.

The scope of the partnership’s work covers both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and its clients will include national governments, intergovernmental bodies and programmes, as well as development agencies and the science community.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Sha Zukang, stressed the critical role of ecosystems and the challenges of degradation in the context of population growth and increasing inequality.

“Ecosystems are the foundation of human lives and livelihoods,” he said. “The future of human civilization and sustainable development depends on sound, healthy and resilient ecosystems. For too long, humanity has ignored this fundamental truth at its own peril,” Mr. Sha added.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to promoting ecosystem management as a cornerstone of the transition to the green economy in developing countries.

Jian Liu, the IEMP Director, stressed that sustainable management of ecosystems and biodiversity is a critical path to the next civilization, which he called the “ecological civilization,” saying it constituted an integral part of the “fourth industrialization” – the development of the green economy.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Deforestation threatens planet, economies and communities, UN chief warns

Saturday, 12 November 2011

U.N. Judges Charge Ban Ki-moon with Power Grab, Distortions of Their Rulings

By George Russell


Little more than two years after United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon inaugurated a new justice system to safeguard employee rights, the judges he appointed to the main tribunal have unanimously charged that the U.N. chief is trying to “undermine the integrity and independence” of their court in a bid to crimp their powers.

The judges, members of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, also charge him in an open letter to the U.N. General Assembly with offering a “misleading and one-sided” account of their judgments to the Assembly as part of the attempt to get his way. (Ironically enough, the letter was sent to the Assembly as required by protocol by Ban himself, as a document from the Secretary General.)

Ban’s intended changes in how the court operates, they say, “raise serious concerns regarding the respect for the rule of law within the Organization,” give “power without accountability” to a variety of U.N. institutions, remove important avenues of legal recourse for U.N. staffers and could make the exercise of the court’s recently enshrined authority “meaningless.”

A U.N. spokesman told Fox News that the Secretary General has “full respect for the independence of the judges,” and said Ban is simply trying to clarify some unforeseen complications of the U.N. legal appeals process and bolster the independence of other institutions that are supposed to protect employees, especially whistleblowers.

The dispute, couched in dense and arcane legal language, is still wending through the convoluted U.N. legislative process. The General Assembly’s legal committee has already declared that Ban’s changes “should not be taken up at this time” before bouncing the matter over to the powerful 5th, or financial, committee.

“The judges were quite right to object to several of the Secretary General’s proposals, which were ill considered and would have had the result of greatly delaying justice and depriving staff of certain rights to which they are entitled,” says Geoffrey Robertson, a distinguished British jurist and member of the U.N.’s own Internal Justice Council, which, among other things, picks judges for the U.N. Dispute Tribunal.

Robertson added his soothing judgment that “these are minor teething problems in a totally new system, and the lesson is simply that the Secretary General should consult more closely with judges and certainly with the Internal Justice Council before trying to tinker with it.” Overall, he says, the justice system “is working surprisingly well.”

Nonetheless, the muffled judicial push-and-shove is important for several reasons—not least the strong reaction of the independent judges. There are three full-time and two half-time judges attached to the Dispute Tribunal, along with three “ad litem,” or ad hoc judges helping to deal with case overloads. They are deliberately chosen from outside the U.N. system to help break what has been described as the U.N.’s incestuous “culture of impunity” which protected corrupt officials and other abusers of authority while punishing whistleblowers and others who bucked the system.

Moreover, their charges echo similar accusations of interference over the past two years from U.N. oversight bodies that are independent from Ban’s Secretariat, but depend on the Secretary General’s bureaucracy for institutional support. In both cases, Ban’s rationale was embedded in technical issues.

In July, 2010, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the outgoing head of the U.N.’s watchdog Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which audits the Secretariat and investigates fraud and malfeasance, charged Ban with “undermining” her organization, while blocking for nearly 20 months her choose as head of OIOS’s sensitive Investigations Division. She also said Ban’s Secretariat was “drifting into irrelevance.”

Ban’s reason for rejecting Ahlenius’ choice was linked to his desire to put more women in the U.N. hierarchy.

Click here to read more on that story.

A little more than a year earlier, another watchdog institution, known as the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), charged Ban in its annual report with an “illegal action” in demanding a bigger say in selecting candidates to become the JIU’s powerful executive secretary.

Ban got his way—once again, he said he wanted to promote more women-- and JIU’s independence, at least in terms of its reports, does not appear to have been affected: the unit has since issued a number of documents highly critical of U.N. operations
(Among other things, for example, the JIU last July charged that Ban’s choices for top appointments are shrouded in excessive secrecy, and that U.N. member states are kept in the dark about senior vacancies.)

Click here to read more that story.

The Dispute Tribunal judges, however, are mostly upset at changes that Ban wants to make in their rules of procedure. Among other things, Ban wants to suspend the Tribunal’s ability to enforce temporary judgments, known as “interlocutory orders” while they are being appealed to the U.N.’s highest judicial body, the seven-member United Nations Appeals Tribunal.
Click here to see the Judge's letter.

This change, the judges argue, would render the court toothless, especially when the temporary order granted what the judges call “interim relief,” for example when ordering the Secretariat to cease and desist from an action that judged illegal, invalid or retaliatory.

In other cases, where the judges had ordered Ban’s Secretariat or an accuser to produce a document or witness in response to charges of unjust treatment, for example, inability to enforce the order “would allow either party to paralyze the process” and make the court ineffective, the jurists said in their open letter.

For his part, Ban’s office told Fox News in response to a query that when the statutes governing the courts were written, they did not say what should happen when the court issues such an order, and argued that this was because, “it was not envisaged that the Dispute Tribunal would issue interlocutory orders.” Now the judges do so “frequently,” Ban’s office noted, while saying that the U.N. appeals court has struck down some as “unlawful.”

The jurists were also seriously aggrieved that Ban objects to their hearing appeals from some of the U.N.’s independent oversight institutions, including OIOS and the U.N. Ethics Office, which judges, among other things, whether the U.N. has retaliated against whistleblowers. The judges call the actions taken by these institutions against U.N. employees “administrative decisions,” meaning actions that fall under their jurisdiction.

Ban argues that since the institutions are supposedly independent from him, their decisions are not administrative and just not reviewable by the courts. “The exercise of judicial review over the actions of independent entities would have very real trade-offs for the manner in which these entities are able to conduct their functions,” Ban’s office told Fox News in a response about the issue.

Ban’s office argued that knowing they might have to testify in a U.N. court could even have a “chilling effect” on future whistleblowers who wanted to expose wrongdoing at the world body, and it should be up to the U.N. General Assembly to decide whether the courts had jurisdiction.

Click here to view Ban's full report.

Ban’s ostensible concern for whistleblower inhibitions was not perceived the same way by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington –based organization that protects such organizational dissidents, and was heavily involved in the original design of the U.N.’s whistleblower protection rules.

“We are really concerned about the Secretary General’s proposal,” said Shelly Walden, a GAP specialist who has monitored the U.N. judicial battle. “In the past whistleblowers had no day in court, and no protection.”

“The Secretary General has recently claimed that he aims to promote whistleblowing,” she added, “but his actions don’t meet his words.”

Where both sides in the judicial battle apparently agree, however, is that the Dispute Tribunal and its appeals counterpart are already overburdened. In his report on the issue, Ban pitches for a $1 million increase in the budget for the new system, to about $8.66 million, and add 26 additional support staff.

Whether that is likely to happen in the midst of a global economic crisis and heightened international skepticism about U.N. spending is an issue neither Ban nor the judges can decide.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter@GeorgeRussell.

Click here for more stories by George Russell.

Rio Earth Summit postponed after clash with Queen's diamond jubilee

Rio+20 dates rearranged to avoid jeopardising the attendance of 54 Commonwealth leaders, including David Cameron

David Cameron
David Cameron said last month that he would not attend the Rio+20 summit. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Brazil has postponed the biggest environmental summit in 20 years to avoid a clash with the Queen's diamond jubilee.

The Rio+20 summit was scheduled for 4-6 June but has been moved to 20-22 June to avoid jeopardising the attendance of 54 Commonwealth leaders, including David Cameron. But Cameron, who said last month that he would not attend, is still not planning to attend, Downing Street said on Monday, despite his pledge to lead the "greenest government ever".

Instead, the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, will be leading the negotiations, a Downing Street spokesman said.

Though Brazil has not officially confirmed the date change, president Dilma Rousseff indicated at the G20 meeting in Cannes on Friday that the summit would be postponed. Asian governments also asked for the new date following the next G20 summit which is to be held 18-19 June in Mexico. The Guardian understands European governments are already working to the new dates.

Rio+20 will mark 20 years since the original Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and is seen as a chance to renew political commitment for sustainable development and greening the economy. A report by MPs last monthcalled on Cameron to "lead by example" and attend the summit.

Green groups and Labour accused Cameron of failing to show leadership.

Caroline Flint, shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change said: "What a sad turn of events that David Cameron, who would hug a huskie for a press stunt just a few years, has now cold-shouldered the biggest environmental conference for 20 years. Cameron has already shown he is out of touch with the public on energy prices; out of touch on tackling abuse and power of the energy giants; and out of touch on investing in green jobs and growth. Now he is determined to avoid any leadership at all on tackling climate change."

Margaret Ounsley, head of public affairs at WWF-UK, said: "Now it has been confirmed that the Earth summit is being moved specifically to accommodate the Commonwealth heads of government we would hope that the prime minister can find time in his busy schedule to attend the Rio summit. Managing the Earth's resources in a way that ensures that there is something left for future generations is still one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. It would begin to sound like he was making excuses if he were still unable to go." The then prime minister John Major attended the original Rio summit in 1992, despite IRA bombings in London, WWF have noted.

Joan Walley, chairwoman of the environmental audit committee, said: "The Rio+20 Earth summit is a vital chance for world leaders to take action to avert a global environmental crisis. But the financial situation means that minds will be focused elsewhere and there is a danger that business-as-usual may end up carrying the day. The prime minister should lead by example. He could make a big difference by demonstrating his commitment to Rio+20 and letting other world leaders know that he will personally be attending."

US Senator Marco Rubio Introduces United Nations Reform Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced legislation to encourage comprehensive and long-lasting reforms at the United Nations. In introducing this bill, Rubio issued the following statement:

“The United Nations was created with the specific objective of maintaining the peace that followed the end of World War II. More than six decades later, we still need a U.N. with resolve, a U.N. that acts with effectiveness and purpose. Sadly, the U.N.'s persistent ethics and accountability problems are limiting its role. Until the organization addresses these important issues, the stature of the organization will continue to suffer in the eyes of the world.

“Examples of this troubling situation abound, from the ongoing efforts to circumvent direct negotiations to end the Israeli-Arab conflict, to the discredited Human Rights Council led by the world’s most notorious tyrants and human rights violators, to the proliferation of mandates that have clouded the organization’s mission and effectiveness. It is imperative for the UN to modernize along a post-Cold War consensus based on transparency, effective promotion of human rights, free enterprise and non-proliferation.

“The UN needs fundamental reform, and America is the best-suited and greatest hope to accomplish all that is needed to help the organization live up to its founding charter. I believe these measures should guide us in improving this institution.”

As an original co-sponsor of the bill U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said, “I applaud Senator Rubio’s efforts to address the problems that plague the United Nations. A decade has passed since Congress implemented needed reforms. Now, this legislation offers updated solutions that will make the United Nations more accountable and transparent in their decision-making process.”

If enacted, Rubio’s legislation, which is a companion bill to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s House proposal, would accomplish the following:

  • Allow the U.S. to fund only UN agencies and programs that advance U.S. interests and values, resulting in greater competition among UN entities for funding that would increase transparency and effectiveness.
  • Authorize the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate and audit the use of U.S. contributions to the UN.
  • Prohibit U.S. contributions to the UN from being used for any purpose other than the specific purposes for which it was made available by Congress.
  • Firmly establish U.S. policy on various issues relating to the UN, including transparency, reform, Security Council expansion, terrorism, anti-Semitism and the unfair treatment of Israel.
  • Withholds U.S. contributions from any UN agency or program that upgrades the status of the Palestinian observer mission outside a negotiated settlement with Israel.
  • Conditions U.S. membership on and funding of the UN Human Rights Council on the Council’s adoption of reforms barring membership of countries subject to Security Council sanctions, under Security Council-mandated human rights investigations, states sponsors of terrorism, “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom violations, or that have been designated as Tier 3 for human trafficking violations.
  • Makes it U.S. policy to lead a high-level diplomatic campaign to revoke and repudiate the Goldstone Report and its follow-on measures by the UN General Assembly.
  • Withholds U.S. funding from any part of the UN’s flawed Durban process, which has been hijacked by rogue regimes and used to advance an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, anti-Western, anti-freedom agenda.
  • Conditions U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) providing assistance to Palestinians refugees until UNRWA meets certain safeguards against terrorist links.

Behind every successful revolution is a woman

Click here to read this on DNA - Daily News & Analysis

The Arab world saw great political turmoil in the beginning of 2011. The Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown before January 2011 ended. Then a similar turmoil began in Egypt and hundreds of thousands of people poured in Tahrir square to protest against Hosni Mubarak, another long serving dictator who was forced to go and then Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Now all this has been much written about and need not be repeated, but what concerns us here is the role of women in these revolutionary changes.

In all these countries, women played a very significant role, right from Tunisia to Yemen. Both in Egypt and Yemen, women’s initiatives proved to be crucial. In fact, the Tahrir mobilisation was due mainly to a young girl’s appeal on Facebook. The role of women was so significant that it was being expected that the Nobel Prize for Peace this year would be given to three women from Arab countries i.e. Tunis, Egypt and Yemen, but instead it went to women from Africa and Yemen, the latter a Muslim woman who also played a crucial role in the protection of human rights and in the political mobilisation for the overthrow of President Saleh, though there still remains a stalemate in Yemen.

The myth that Muslim women merely sit at home and are worth nothing more than domestic workers and house makers has been shattered decisively. Muslim women have proved once again that they can mobilise people efficiently and purposefully. It is also interesting to note that many women in Tunisia and Egypt were quite active in trade unions and have used their experience to proper use and brought about change in the political sphere.

But post-revolution a shadow of doubt hangs over them. What will this democratic revolution give them? Will it take over the rights they had gained under dictators? It is possible that Islamic laws are re-imposed in these countries. In Tunisia, the Ennahda Party has won elections. Though it describes itself as a moderate Islamic party, Ennahda leader Ghanushi has fortunately declared that there will be no change in gender laws, which clearly means polygamy will not be re-imposed.

However, Libyan women are not so fortunate. The Libyan leader who is projected as the new Prime Minister after ousting Gaddafi has already announced that Islamic laws will be the only laws imposed and polygamy will be reintroduced. Gaddafi, undoubtedly a dictator who had to go, had also done lot of good in introducing and consolidating gender justice in Libya. He had given equal rights to women as provided for in the Qur’an. He abolished polyga-my and gave women an important role in public life. He even maintained that to confine women at home is an imperialist conspiracy to paralyse half the population of the Islamic world.

Gaddafi created a special force for women in the army and assigned them duties of body guards. It was a revolutionary step, which is now likely to be reversed.

To say that polygamy is permitted by the Qur’an and hence must be reintroduced is tantamount to injuring the spirit of the Qur’an. At best it is a half truth. Polygamy has been allowed in the Qur’an, but in a specific context and with rigorous conditions. Anyone who reads the two verses in Qur’an on polygamy i.e. 4:3 and 4:129 would see that for the Qur’an, justice is more central than multiple wives. And if justice is so important, can polygamy be made the rule?

In the early seventies, whenever a dictator declared his country to be an Islamic state, he would introduce Hudud laws (Islamic punishments for theft, adultery etc), in an effort to prove that these punishments were more central than the factors which motivated a person to commit the crime. Similarly today when dictatorial regimes end, a declaration is made that family laws will be introduced and polygamy will be permissible.

As this writer has always maintained that gender justice is very central to the Qur’an, provided that the it is read in its proper context, and today with a much greater role being played by women in public life, it is all the more important that gender justice be made equally central in the Shari’ah laws. The present Shari’ah laws will not be acceptable to women as education and awareness among them increases and pressure for change will continue to gather momentum. In fact the Qur’an unambiguously stands for gender justice and has equipped women with all the rights men were given. We are surprised by how male interpreters missed this and equally surprised by how Muslim women submitted to these interpretations.

Foreign aid, capitalist style

Poor countries that want money from the Millennium Challenge Corp. pledge to end corruption and embrace democracy. Can this little-known agency change the model for global aid?

By Nina Easton, senior editor-at-large

Harvesting pineapples in a Bomarts Farm field near Bawjiase, Ghana. Bomarts is a beneficiary of an MCC grant to Ghana.

Harvesting pineapples in a Bomarts Farm field near Bawjiase, Ghana. Bomarts is a beneficiary of an MCC grant to Ghana.

FORTUNE -- Dole Food Co. has been knocking on his door, but Tony Botchway wasn't sure he wanted to cut a deal. Five years ago, this Ghanaian farmer could only dream of becoming a supplier to the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables. Now he's producing 4,500 hectares of sweet pineapples and mangoes, and selling them for juicy profits (profits he wasn't sure he wanted to share) to Spain and Switzerland. His Bomarts Farm has expansion plans that local banks are happy to finance. And he can afford to pay his nearly 750 workers above minimum wage, while providing lunch and free medical care. "We're ready to compete with Costa Rican producers," he told me as we stood in front of his new processing plant in central Ghana's Nsorbi, just weeks before he ultimately decided to ink a deal with Dole (DOLE).

Botchway and his workers have U.S. taxpayers to thank for all this, specifically, a little-known foreign-aid program called the Millennium Challenge Corp., which has poured more than half-a-billion dollars into Ghana alone since 2006. Since its founding in 2004 the agency, which enjoys bipartisan support, has committed some $8 billion to projects in developing countries such as the Philippines, Georgia, and El Salvador.

Some of you are surely rolling your eyes at the thought of more American dollars flowing into foreign lands -- taxpayers already provide some $34 billion a year in economic aid throughagencies such as USAID. But the MCC program is international aid that capitalists can embrace: The agency's founding principle is that economic growth is the best antidote to poverty, and so while some money is funneled to schools and hospitals, MCC's biggest grants, or "compacts," are aimed at kick-starting private enterprise. In Ghana, for example, the MCC money has been used to train 65,000 farmers, build storage facilities, and pave gutted dirt roads so that they can get fresh produce to markets.

Farmer-turned-entrepreneur Tony Botchway at his processing plant

Farmer-turned-entrepreneur Tony Botchway at his processing plant

MCC itself takes a businesslike approach to its disbursements. Countries that apply for funds must meet a rigorous checklist. An MCC grant isn't a blank check -- and unlike other foreign aid it is designed to end. "My goal is to replace our money with private sector money," says Daniel Yohannes, an Ethiopian-born banker from Colorado who was tapped by President Obama in 2009 to run the agency. When I visited Ghana, a digital clock in the local agency office was counting down the days till the end of its five-year compact. After that, it's pencils down. If Ghana wants more money, it must compete against other countries with a new proposal addressing a new industrial sector. No country has yet received a second compact, though a handful -- including Ghana -- are in the running.

In contrast to most other foreign-aid programs, MCC grants come with tough strings attached: Only democratic countries with a commitment to economic freedom can compete for the money. Fall down on that and you're booted -- as Nicaragua learned in 2008, when suppressing political opposition in local elections cost the country a $62 million grant. When the Malawi government used violence to quell demonstrators, MCC threatened to halt its $350 million grant.

MCC was the brainchild of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She says that, going back to her days as national security adviser, she was dismayed by the way agencies such as USAID, the World Bank, and other bloated bureaucracies administered aid, letting corruption and fat overhead siphon off money, or wasting dollars on regimes that suppressed private markets and political opposition, keeping poverty rates high. "I couldn't defend a lot of foreign aid over the past years, much of which disappeared into the pockets of corrupt foreign leaders," Rice tells me. In 2002, President George W. Bush, flanked by U2 star Bono, proposed increasing development aid by 50% through what he called a "millennium challenge account." (Bono later told Rice that he was initially skeptical about the Bush White House's plans; MCC has since become a program supported by both sides of the aisle, and venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a longtime Democrat, sits on the MCC board of directors.)

Singer Bono was on hand when President George W. Bush announced plans to boost global aid.

Singer Bono was on hand when President George W. Bush announced plans to boost global aid.

The Bush administration also hoped MCC would help it achieve its foreign policy goals. In her forthcoming book No Higher Honor, Rice describes the MCC as a pillar of a broader post-9/11 national security strategy to promote American values abroad. "We were looking at how to build well-governed states that take care of their people. And to do that, foreign aid had to be a two-way street," she says in an interview. "It had to be transparent."

MCC's philosophy is that local ownership ensures that countries have a stake in success. Bush described it as "partnership, not paternalism." Projects are designed and administered by a coalition of government officials and business, labor leaders, and environmentalists -- in an often hotly debated process that acts as its own exercise in democracy, Rice says.

Early results suggest the model is working: Honduran farmers linked to MCC projects have seen their incomes rise nearly 90% in two years; in Armenia, projections say, it's 150%. Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor, recent winner of the 2011 World Food Prize, gives MCC a big piece of the credit for a decade where per capita income tripled and hunger was dramatically reduced. MCC's $547 million five-year plan to home-grow a Ghanaian agribusiness industry has enabled farmers to move away from subsistence toward a modern business approach that ensures revenue, not just family supper, Kufuor explains.

MCC recognizes that capitalism needs more than money to thrive, and so it forces grant winners to maintain standards on everything from immunization to education of girls to a strict rule of law -- all keys to an egalitarian society where free markets can thrive. In turn, qualifying for an MCC grant has a financial halo effect on countries, or "a kind of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval" for would-be foreign investors, says Patricof, the MCC board member. After MCC made a grant to the African nation of Benin, Bolloré, a French conglomerate, followed with a $256 million investment of its own.

Fruit is prepared for export.

Fruit is prepared for export.

With big American bucks on the line, countries like Benin found the motivation to finally clean up tangled property title systems, giving landowners the collateral they needed to access credit. MCC-sponsored business registration centers offer entrepreneurs an incentive to quickly open legitimate, taxpaying companies.

MCC money gives political leaders the backbone to get tough on corruptionand reform court systems, two notorious problems that keep foreign investors at bay. When I toured Benin and Ghana, government ministers praised MCC for helping "correct certain behaviors." (Translation: MCC provided air cover for government efforts to weed out corruption.)

Despite the leverage that money buys, deploying billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fight global poverty through economic growth hasn't been easy -- as I learned in Benin.

A zero-tolerance approach to corruption

Other African nations have minerals or diamonds or oil. Tiny Benin, a former French colony of 9 million people, has its port -- a gateway for imports traveling to landlocked West African countries. More than half of MCC's $307 million grant to Benin was aimed at expanding the Port of Cotonou to accommodate today's supertankers. The construction came in on time and on budget. Ending corruption is a bigger project.

The completed jetty at the Port of Cotonou in Benin was funded by an MCC grant.

The completed jetty at the Port of Cotonou in Benin was funded by an MCC grant.

Intolerance for corruption is the sine qua non of MCC dealmaking. Bribery, kickbacks, and other illicit activities can do serious damage to a country's reputation, erode government treasuries, and scare off investors. In Benin, customs fees have been an easy source of pocket money for customs agents. And the deal with MCC requires that to end. (Benin qualified for a grant because of a better-than-average corruption problem.) Automated systems installed as part of the port expansion are helping. In August, Benin's newly reelected President Thomas Yayi Boni gave a speech declaring that bribe-takers will be punished.

I arrive in the capital city of Cotonou in September, two weeks after that speech, and it quickly becomes clear that the heat is on him. Customs agents are threatening a strike in retaliation. Yayi, meanwhile, doesn't want to lose his U.S. grant -- nor the opportunity to compete for a second one. He is also, by all accounts, sincerely committed to his anticorruption campaign; lost revenue is pinching his government.

Yayi and his government have taken notice of Fortune's presence, with ministers opening their doors to make the case for U.S. investment in their country. They've also taken note of the arrival of Jonathan Bloom, who oversees MCC's West Africa grants. Bloom is a soft-spoken Harvard Business School graduate who nonetheless describes himself as a "straightforward, effective hard-ass" -- qualities Yayi witnesses firsthand.

During our visit Yayi calls a meeting with his port minister and Bloom to make the case for more MCC money. Bloom has a rigid counteroffer: Benin must complete unfinished business from the first compact, including the meeting of deadlines and ending corruption. Benin can pursue a second compact, but the competition is fierce. "It's far from automatic," Bloom says.

Dignitaries at the 2010 ribbon-cutting in Benin included (from left) the U.S. Ambassador to Benin, James Knight, former Benin President Nicéphore Soglo, MCC's Daniel Yohannes and Lee Roussel, and current Benin President Boni Yayi.

Dignitaries at the 2010 ribbon-cutting in Benin included (from left) the U.S. Ambassador to Benin, James Knight, former Benin President Nicéphore Soglo, MCC's Daniel Yohannes and Lee Roussel, and current Benin President Boni Yayi.

The next morning, over breakfast, the port minister, Jean-Michel Abimbola -- who also chairs the local MCC board -- argues that Benin needs more than MCC's money; its anticorruption demands "provided a kind of magic potion for the way forward." Adds Abimbola: "I wish it would not stop at this step, but it has changed laws and behaviors."

In mid-September, a few weeks after Bloom departs, customs agents respond to Yayi's anticorruption campaign with two short strikes. But Yayi refuses to back down; the Benin legislature passes -- and courts uphold -- a ban on customs agents strikes. Anticorruption measures move forward. Officials from the Danish shipping giant Maersk and Bolloré tell me they are optimistic that import traffic through Benin will triple in the coming years.

The best antipoverty tool

No one at MCC kids himself that Benin's battle against corruption is anything but an ongoing operation. But it's one worth fighting because of its link to job creation -- and, thereby, poverty reduction. MCC field workers like to think of themselves as a sort of special ops force of donor aid -- a lean, mobile machine that intervenes and then, just as important, leaves. Only two MCC staffers work full-time on the ground in each country, backed by a team of engineers and auditors in Washington. USAID and the World Bank, by contrast, maintain big, stationary units in the countries where they provide aid.

To be sure, MCC doesn't engage in all the laudable humanitarian efforts that consume much of the USAID budget -- coming to the rescue after floods, earthquakes, famine. It doesn't have a mission to, say, end a killer like malaria, as the Gates Foundation does. Nor are MCC's architects alone in recognizing the merits of capitalism in combating poverty. The World Bank has long had a private sector arm called the IFC -- which partnered with MCC on Benin's port, among many other projects. The bank's current president, Robert Zoellick, has convinced pension and sovereign wealth funds to invest in poor developing nations, while promoting innovations like J.P. Morgan-designed (JPM) hedging tools to help emerging agribusinesses manage risks like weather and pricing. "We see our job as creating conditions for markets to flourish, to draw more capital in," Zoellick tells Fortune.

But MCC dares to promote a view -- economic growth as the best antipoverty tool -- that is often at odds with much of the donor community, which remains suspicious of capitalism. Economic growth is mentioned only twice in a recent 44-page United Nations report, Paul Farmer, UN deputy special envoy for Haiti, has pointed out. Yet as Farmer noted in a recent Foreign Policyarticle on Haiti relief efforts, "All humans need money -- they need it to buy food and water every day. And no matter how hard the government or the aid industry tries, people will want for all three things until they are employed."

Helping the world's poor consumes less than 1% of the U.S. budget. Still, why should strapped American taxpayers continue to pour billions of development aid into poor countries?

Condi Rice, now a professor at Stanford University, is blunt: "Foreign aid is one of the most important parts of diplomacy. We need countries that are responsible. A stable society is not going to become a failed state." But, she adds pointedly, "every taxpayer ought to be asking, Is it working?" It may be too early to declare MCC's approach a success, but the tiny agency certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.

--Additional reporting by Anne VanderMey

This article is from the November 21, 2011 issue of Fortune.