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The Vital Contribution of Transparency to Development Effectiveness: Video

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It is no exaggeration to suggest that the (transparency) movement…will produce the most important transformation in the 50 years of modern development experience. Transparency will lead us to new achievements in poverty reduction.

Brian Atwood, Chair of the OECD DAC

 Brian Atwood, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), has pledged the full support of his organisation to the principles agreed at Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) in November, 2011. In a speech, which you can view above, given at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, he emphasised the crucial role that transparency has in increasing the effectiveness of aid and development.

Mr Atwood confirmed the support and cooperation of the OECD DAC to join the movement:

We within the DAC very strongly support IATI (the International Aid Transparency Initiative). We’re committed to do what the Busan Agreement has called upon us to do, which is to implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation.

At Development Initiatives we feel this commitment is crucial. As the emerging global partnership takes its place alongside the DAC, it’s important that it has a clear role and is not perceived as a talking shop. Building on the critical mass that has now developed around IATI, it is our desire that the emerging global partnership has responsibility for the governance and delivery of the initiative.

This would help to ensure that developing countries see IATI as something in which they have a shared interest and of which they have shared ownership – and it will clearly distinguish IATI from the valuable role that the DAC continues to pursue on reporting donor performance.

Mr Atwood also outlined the DAC’s belief in the power of transparency to improve the nuts and bolts of the development process, highlighting its role in reducing waste as well as providing the information which is essential for planning and budgeting.

The role of partner countries

A key issue, stated Mr Atwood, focuses on the involvement of, and benefits for, developing countries in the outcomes of the transparency movement:

If there is one message that should come through clearly from Busan it is the effort to try to empower partner countries . . . and that is the primary thrust of Busan.

One of the basic needs that the transparency movement has reacted to is the need for accountability, to taxpayers in the west but also, and more importantly, to those who are supposed to benefit from aid. Mr Atwood refers strongly to these priorities and draws on the needs for developing country governments to have access to the information they need to be able to properly plan and execute their own budgets:

We can only demand accountability, and we can only foster accountability, if we give our partners the basic means to manage their development resources so as to achieve the best results.

Forward-looking data

A main focus of the transparency movement and one of the key benefits of IATI concerns the issue of forward-looking data and future-funding plans. Mr Atwood said:

They (partner countries) need to have information about the future . . . we also need information on publishing what you plan to fund over the next three to five years.

Progress is being made towards these goals, with IATI placing focus on signatories publishing forward-looking data. Three-quarters of the DAC membership have now agreed to publish this information, but we need full support from all DAC members, so there is still work to be done. There is real evidence that IATI is already improving the effectiveness of aid. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, the government has been able to access donor’s forward-spending plans published through IATI and integrate them into their aid management system. This will allow them to plan their budget in a more informed way, resulting in more effective aid outcomes and poverty reduction spending.

Mr Atwood summed up by highlighting the DAC’s commitments to implementing those terms agreed at Busan:

The DAC is in a new era. We are as much behind transparency as we possibly could be . . . there is no negative reaction to our embracing the Busan commitment to integrate these important initiatives, the CRS and IATI, and to create a common standard and begin implementing it, with full force . . . It will change the behaviour of donors, it will change the behaviour of partner countries, and it will make it easier for us to implement all of the other provisions of Busan.

At Development Initiatives, we were very pleased to be able to invite Mr Atwood to speak on these themes in London, described by him as the ‘epicentre of transparency’. Mr Atwood acknowledged the key role that UK-AID and the Department for International Development (DFID) had in creating and promoting the IATI standard. Our view is that transparency is now a key and inescapable part of the contract between citizen and state. It underpins efficiency and accountability in the use of resources and ultimately impacts on poverty and development.

Judith Randel, Director of Development Initiatives, says:

Access to information and transparency has to be a core part of the 2015 settlement, as important as access to water and sanitation and education in terms of delivering poverty eradication.

View the full version of the speech followed by the question and answer session in the video above.

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