On 14th September, Katie Nguyen asked “What have the Millennium Development Goals ever done for us?” Writing on the Reuters Humanitarian site, Alertnet, she acknowledges that although nobody can fault the aim of the MDGs, issues such as poor data have ‘provoked as much doubt as support’.

Nguyen states that the lack of reliable information tops the criticisms levelled at the MDGs: “Though the MDGs were established as numerical targets – for example, to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015 or halt the spread of malaria by 2015 – the lack of reliable data in poor countries means progress is difficult to measure”. This is an important problem to raise: Data is the basis on which evaluation of progress towards the Millennium Goals is made.

But the lack of reliable data is more widespread than just reporting on progress in developing countries. Donors do not know what they are giving and to where. Even assuming we had sound reports on these indicators from recipient countries, we would not know what had caused a change. The lack of an identifiable cause starts with the lack of aid transparency in donor countries. Without Donor knowledge of the quantity and destination of aid, changes to maternal health and other objectives cannot be properly evaluated or explained.

With the inherent difficulties of reporting progress in developing countries, donors should take responsibility for casting light on what resources will be going where, and not plunge the situation into further darkness.

The International Aid transparency Initiative aims to ensure that countries disclose their aid information in a comprehensive, timely and comparable fashion. Commitment to such a standard by donor governments who have the resources to do so is essential if we are to make the most of aid money. Aid transparency is necessary in making global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals meaningful.

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