Donors announce innovative changes to their reporting on aid
The future of aid is changing.
Last week, at an event in Washington DC, USAID announced plans to publish details of their aid programmes in a form accessible to people in developing countries, as well as their own taxpayers. And on Friday, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed that member states would publish details of their aid in an internationally comparable format.
This is a big deal, and something that we in the aid transparency world have been hoping will happen for a long time; it is a huge step forward in the path towards more effective aid.
It means that from next year, donors making up at least two thirds of aid to less developed countries will be publishing detailed, up to date information about aid through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The first part of this new global standard was agreed in July this year. The UK, which together with Sweden and the Netherlands has played a leading role in this initiative, will have its first data online next month. Many other donors, including the World Bank and the EC, will soon follow.
But it’s not just governments and large donors who are joining the parade. The Foundation Centre, for example, are already encouraging other large philanthropic foundations to publish their data in line with the IATI format, which is hugely significant for those seeking aid information.
So what will all this achieve?
First and foremost it will make information about aid spending easier to access, use and understand. Recent research shows that developing countries and their citizens still face huge challenges in accessing information about aid flows and activities. IATI aims to address these challenges.
In terms of what this means for increased access to aid data, the figures are promising. With USAID publishing data in line with the standard, the percentage of aid information (excluding debt relief) covered by IATI would go up:
- from 50.5% to 59.1% for all recipients
- from 54.4% to 67.7% for Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
(based on 2008 ODA contributions).
IATI holds the promise of transforming foreign aid, by making it possible for everyone to access the information they need, to share that knowledge and contribute to it themselves.
The very basis of the initiative works towards getting donors and organisations that provide and deal with aid funds to publish their aid data in a timely, detailed and meaningful way.
The US sets an example to other donors on IATI; by publishing their data in an IATI compliant way they are acknowledging the benefits the standard will bring to the aid world. Importantly, it will improve the effectiveness and reach of aid given by USAID – citizens will be able to hold them to account for the aid they disburse and governments and agencies receiving aid from the US will be in a better position to manage their resources.
A common standard for sharing information unlocks a whole world of possibility:
- it will enable the information from multiple aid agencies to be easily used by governments, parliaments and citizens in both donor and developing nations;
- it democratises aid, removing the monopoly of information and power from the governments and aid professionals;
- it inspires innovation and informs learning; it reduces bureaucracy, enabling organisations to share information with each other easily;
- it makes it possible for communities to collaborate, for citizens to hold governments to account and for the beneficiaries of aid to speak for themselves.
So you can see why we’re excited about this recent announcement. With a new global standard for sharing information, aid in the future will look very different.