Dutch NGOs make progress on transparency at Partos
It was good to be invited to the Partos Conference in the Netherlands, and to see the progress that Dutch NGOs are making on transparency. In many ways, they are ahead of the game, with initiatives such as the Dutch NGO database, developed by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Radjboud University, Nijmegen which publishes datasets covering 70% of expenditure on international development by Dutch NGOs, and Results in Development – a joint initiative by DGIS and Partos to produce a common report on the results of Dutch international aid efforts.
Individual NGOs have also made considerable efforts to increase their own transparency, such as SPARK, who aim to be ‘the most transparent European Development Organisation’ and have opened their books to the public, while Agriterra, who work with farmers organisations all over the world, have an online database of all their projects:
The conference was useful in highlighting the some of the difficulties faced by NGOs seeking to promote their own transparency, including:
- Low levels of use and feedback from partners, beneficiaries and the public;
- High levels of effort required to maintain and update their information regularly.
Several participants made the point that transparency alone was not enough, and emphasised the importance of capacity-building and support to institutions and individuals to help them use this information.
At the same time, the conference illustrated the downside of multiple, individual efforts to increase transparency – while the information that was published was useful internally, the lack of standardisation limited its usefulness to external audiences.
External stakeholders need information that is published in a common, standardised way so that they can easily find, use and compare this information. This is what the International Aid Transparency Initiative seeks to provide, and in January, IATI will establish a new working group to discuss how the IATI standard can be adapted for use by NGOs and CSOs. We very much hope that many of the Dutch NGOs, who have made so much progress on transparency themselves, will contribute to this initiative.