The Open Society Institute Commends Decision to Suspend the Gambia from Millennium Challenge Account
The Open Society Institute is commending Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MCC) recent decision to suspend the Gambia's eligibility for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance.

June 29, 2006

The Open Society Institute commends the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) recent decision to suspend the Gambia’s eligibility for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance, in light of the country’s blatant backsliding on democratic governance over the past few years.

Under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994, the country has suffered a progressive decline in human rights, freedom of expression and rule of law. Gambian civil society operates under intimidation, fear and brutality. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have disappeared. Intimidation of journalists is coupled with the banning of credible media institutions, as noted by human rights organizations such as Freedom House and Amnesty International.

In its statement of notification to Congress, the MCC cites “growing human rights abuses, increased restrictions on political rights, civil liberties and press freedom, as well as deteriorating economic policies and anti-corruption efforts” as the impetus for the Gambia’s suspension. The MCC’s statement goes on to note anticipated backsliding on several other indicators in 2006 such as trade policy, regulatory quality, cost of starting a business and fiscal policy. However, it seems clear that the overriding rationale for the Gambia’s suspension was its dire performance on key indicators of democratic governance.

Any decision to renew the Gambia’s eligibility should only come after significant progress on policy reforms in the areas of human rights promotion, freedom of speech and the press and respect for the rule of law. Countries that become eligible for MCC assistance must maintain the policy standards and performance that initially qualified them or lose their eligibility.

OSI believes that this should particularly be the case where there is backsliding in the area of ruling justly, as this is where the MCC has tacitly placed the greatest weight in its selection decisions to date. While a tough budget year or legislative resistance to certain reforms may temporarily hinder a country’s performance in areas such as investing in people and economic reform, there is simply no excuse for a country to regress on issues of civil and political liberties. Indeed, countries that qualify for MCC assistance should, with rare exceptions, be on a clear and consistent upward trajectory for performance in all categories. OSI hopes that the MCC will continue to be vigilant and firm in this regard with other countries that show signs of potential regress, such as Armenia and Kyrgyz Republic.

As a program that aims to recognize and reward the performance of low-income countries that lead in the areas of democratic governance, anti-corruption and human development, the MCC has made a clear statement, with the Gambia’s suspension, of its commitment to these principles and the commitment of other MCC eligible countries that do indeed merit increased assistance on this account.

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