The first drafting session of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) was held in New York on the week of the 26th January, in spite of the agenda being re-scheduled to avoid a potentially dangerous blizzard (that thankfully never happened). We came back to the office with a little bit more understanding of the process but some key unanswered questions: what will the FfD3 outcome document actually look like and how will it relate to the Means of Implementation discussion happening at the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda negotiations?

For a starter, the co-facilitators of the conference, the Permanent Representatives of Norway and Guyana, focused the discussion around an elements paper produced in advance of the meeting. This was important to focus the discussion around key areas and gaps to be addressed. An initial reaction:

We felt disappointed that transparency (and accountability) of development flows (private and public / international and domestic) was not part of the systemic issues section. Clearly, it is important to have a complete picture of resources going into sustainable development and of what they are actually delivering for people and planet.

Without transparent and open, good quality information, how will countries, private sector, civil society and the international system know where to allocate financial and non-financial resources? How will there be adequate tools to hold development actors accountable? This section should incorporate specific policy commitments regarding the transparency of all development flows building upon existing initiatives (see below) and commitments, not only as part of the monitoring and follow-up of the FfD outcome and/or post-2015 goals (which is important too) but as an important component of a policy framework that can enable sustainable development commitments deliver.

On the latter, as mentioned, it is indeed positive to see that the elements paper contains a section on data, monitoring and follow-up of FfD commitments. This is a welcome step forward from both Monterrey and Doha. We would like to see, though, that these commitments and set up takes into account existing international transparency standards such as IATI, EITI and the work of national level initiatives such as IBP, Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency and Open Contracting, among others, that are already providing information of different flows going into development in an open format (for everyone to use, compare and re-use). We had a good conversation with some missions, UN staff and NGOs in this regard, over a working lunch we organised with our partners as a fringe event during the drafting session. See details here.

So what happened during the drafting session? Transparency and data was mostly debated during the session on ‘data, monitoring and follow-up’. We heard some initial views around what a monitoring mechanism should take into account and linkages with the Post-2015 agenda. The discussion was still very general; however, there are some statements worth highlighting:

  • Ghana, U.S., UK, Netherlands and Sweden supported existing open data initiatives such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), as an existing open data format providing comparable information that is focused on the needs of developing countries.
  • Nepal reminded us that ‘local information management systems should be used to gather progress and evidence during the monitoring and follow-up.’ Find an example of such work from Nepal here
  • Brazil: stated that ‘South-South Cooperation, monitoring and accountability should be strengthened through the work of the High Level Commission on SSC in line with the Nairobi declaration’. This is not a surprising position, but I also hope they soon join the open data movement. There’s a lot of lessons learned and experience that IATI can share (and could be a basis for their efforts)

As Publish What You Fund, we are interested in contributing to the case for policy commitments on transparency through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a standard that provides open, forward looking, comprehensive, timely, accessible and comparable information of development flows focused on developing country needs. We have seen a lot of progress made in publishing to the standard in the last few years. We believe that the FfD outcome document can further drive these efforts so we come closer to getting a more comprehensive picture of financing for development flows for better decision making and coordination and enhanced transparency, accountability and participation. This is reflected in our statement delivered to FfD.

Our close experience working with the IATI standard and liaising with partners working on other development flows will be the basis to constructively engage throughout the negotiation process. Watch this space.