Remarks by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales on Compact Development Grant Agreement Signing Ceremony: February 20, 2019

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

Good morning.

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister

The President of the Senate

The Speaker of the National Assembly

Her Ladyship the Chief Justice

Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet, particularly the Minister of Finance Dr. Majoro who is here with us today.

Their Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions & International Organizations

Senior Government Officials

Members of the Press and respective media houses here represented

I want to thank everyone for the hard work to get us to this important milestone we mark today. This milestone is one of several on the way to the finish line of finally signing a second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact in the future.

It is vital to understand that we still have a lot of hard work to do before we actually sign a compact between Lesotho and the United States. There is still potential for delay or derailment if we do not continue purposefully on the path of reforms and political stability. If we stray from the path of reforms and political stability, it will be even more difficult to find our way again. I am deeply concerned about alarming reports of corruption and police brutality – behavior that is unacceptable and non-negotiable. The consequences of an interrupted compact development will not be as serious as the negative impact to the people of Lesotho caused by failure to make progress on these issues.

But we look at Lesotho’s progress and remain hopeful, as we count on the sustained commitment of the government to ensure that the resources we put in place today will develop – an MCC compact that will truly reduce poverty and grow the economy for all benefit of all Basotho. Therefore, today we are taking a positive next step on the journey to a compact by entering the development and facilitation phase.

I have been in Lesotho for just over a year now. I have had the opportunity to travel to all ten districts of this beautiful country and see firsthand the accomplishments achieved together with the Basotho people under the first MCC compact… and the significant challenges that remain.

The people of Lesotho can be proud of the progress made to bring the scourge of HIV/AIDS closer to epidemic control, including investments made in MCC’s first compact that strengthened the country’s health care system and its ability to deliver quality services. We have gotten closer to achieving the 90/90/90 target. However, we must be focused, committed, and determined – and renew our sense of urgency.  Basotho still suffer from HIV/AIDS at alarming rates. This is unacceptable and unnecessary.

The people of Lesotho can be proud of developments in the water sector under the first compact. The first compact’s investments in the water sector were designed to support Lesotho’s vision to provide secure, adequate, sustainable and clean water supply and sanitation services to rural and urban consumers. America’s investment in the Metolong Dam and in digging 30,000 latrines helped realized that goal.

But, we cannot rest — hard work remains. There are still many Basotho who do not fully benefit from this vital resource, a vulnerability that increases with the threat of drought.

The people of Lesotho can be proud of developments in the private sector. The MCC First Compact Private Sector Development Project aimed to stimulate private sector activity within the country by improving access to credit, reducing financial transaction costs, and increasing the participation of women in the economy.  The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Lesotho.

Yet… we cannot bask in our progress, critical work remains to be done. The promise of economic development still eludes so many Basotho who can only dream of a day when the vicious threat of poverty is not staring them in the face.

We can and must confront these challenges together to achieve our common objective of a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful Lesotho.

In all of my meetings with Basotho, whether they are government officials, members of the opposition, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, clergy, business people, or other citizens, they all clamor for the same thing: accountability. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the document “The Lesotho We Want,” also known as the Road Map, as well as in the Multi-stakeholder National Dialogue Report and other documents.

In December, during Anti-Corruption Day, Prime Minister Thabane pledged his commitment to lead the fight for accountability. Through the US Embassy in Maseru and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the American people stand ready to join the Prime Minister and every Mosotho in this fight for a stronger Lesotho. No country can prosper where impunity lives and thrives.

The true prosperity of a country is not determined solely by gross domestic product (GDP). True prosperity is also determined by good governance, respect for human rights, rule of law, a security sector including the police dedicated to protecting citizens, a vibrant media, constructive political discourse, equal access to opportunity, a military under civilian rule, a healthy environment, a fearless judiciary, a professional civil service…

Accountability is a necessary condition for all of these ideals. Strengthening institutions of accountability is necessary for progress on a second MCC compact. The watchdogs of public interest must be empowered and have teeth. For these bodies to be effective in their protection of Lesotho, they need two things: 1. Sufficient resources, and 2. Genuine independence to conduct their work.

The leaders of Lesotho’s institutions of accountability need to be able to declare with confidence that they have the necessary resources and independence to do their work for the people of Lesotho. Only with such an assurance in place can the United States be confident that its potential future investment from MCC will reach into every corner of this beautiful country to help all Basotho. As part of Compact development, we look forward to working with our Basotho partners to identify concrete steps to strengthen institutions of accountability around public goods delivery.

We call upon the people of Lesotho to demonstrate their commitment to fostering a culture of accountability.

Again, we are delighted to be participate in this important milestone today.

Thank you.  Khotso, Pula, Nala.