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Girls in Liberia benefit from conditional aid

Though the giving of conditional aid does not find universal favour, girls in Liberia are currently benefiting from this kind of selective investment.

Liberia is just one country receiving conditional aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Set up by the American government in 2004, the Corporation hands out grants known as ‘compacts’ to developing nations which are deemed to meet criteria set down in 20 areas. These include immunisation targets and land rights. So far, Liberia is among more than 25 countries which together have received over 9 billion dollars in funding.

According to a recent article in The Economist, Liberia in particular has done particularly well through the scheme and its government, led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, does not appear to resent the conditionality of such payments or feel they undermine the country’s autonomy.

In 2006, Liberia introduced free and compulsory primary education. However, reports in 2010 which assessed the success of this introduction highlighted how the enrolment of girls in primary education was still not as high as it should be. A 15 million dollar grant from the MCC was therefore provided to improve this situation. And at the end of last year, Liberia was declared eligible to receive a much larger sum, possibly amounting to around 300 million dollars in total.

Projects which may benefit from this money include a range of programmes designed to support girls in education. For example, over 2,700 girls have received help with uniforms, school materials and books since 2010. And many schools have been given money to build more girls toilets.

Other projects include support for placing girls into the formal education system, rather than leaving them in traditional schools. Some of the traditional Sande bush schools, for example, promote the practice of female genital cutting. Liberia’s President has already let it be known that she would like to see all such schools closed.

Some experts in the development sector point out that grants such as the MCC’s are simply rewarding countries which are performing well anyway and should instead be used to incentivise nations with poor human rights records and governance. However, countries such as Liberia counter that because of their success in meeting strict criteria, they are better able to invest the money wisely and efficiently. And for donors too, there is the comfort of knowing that significant aid investments are not being frittered away or wasted.

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