Global team with local knowledge drives U.S. soft power in challenging information environments

$697 million Nepal infrastructure investment requires strategic engagement and advocacy to build public trust and neutralize mis/disinformation.

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) invests in capacity-building enterprises around the world to advance economic development and American foreign policy.  This is particularly important in South Asia where the United States sees growing regional competition from China and India.

In Nepal, the MCC is contributing hundreds of millions of dollars for roads, highways, and electric transmission lines to bring power, access, and opportunity to more people across the country.  However, vocal opposition to the implementing MCC Nepal Compact and the individual projects highlighted the need for outside strategic communications support. Some Nepalis opposed the Compact outright.  Others expressed concern about government corruption. At the same time, Chinese disinformation circulated in Nepal accusing the U.S. of buying influence while India viewed the new American presence with suspicion. Without an organized communications and engagement strategy, the MCC and the Government of Nepal faced continued challenges building public support and program advocacy capacity required to confidently move forward in this dynamic and fluid information environment.

Working closely with MCC, Nepal’s implementing agency (MCA), local partners, and the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Agenda’s political advocacy, public engagement, citizen education, and media outreach programs seek to generate proactive messaging and communications products, while countering disinformation, misleading narratives, and community opposition.  Agenda’s Nepal operations leverage the expertise and key networks of our local staff, along with our international work building third-party advocacy and strategies to proactively fill the information environment with honest, transparent narratives designed to neutralize detractors and build broad public trust.  Agenda continues to work closely with MCC, MCA, and the Government of Nepal to implement and ensure consistent, accurate, and culturally relevant communications throughout the life of the Compact and its projects.

Our experience in Nepal has practical and expansive implications for American diplomacy, development assistance, and foreign policy. The MCC Compact is ongoing and an example of the broader, more assertive engagement necessary to support U.S. soft power in challenging information environments.  Successful engagement requires constant effort and adaptability in an adversarial and contested space. Fortunately, we have the strategy, tools, experience, and local networks to meet this challenge.