Making Mali’s aid transparent

Donors from around the world met in Brussels last month to pledge funds for war-torn Mali, following a military coup that took place in March this year and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels.

International donors agreed to provide Mali with over €3 billion in aid and the European Union pledged €1.35 billion, nearly one third of the total funds promised.

As one of Mali’s most significant donors, France pledged over €240m at the conference – although civil society organisations say they still require further information from the French government as to whether these funds are actually available. Will that money make a difference to the lives of poor people in Mali? We certainly hope so.

Public pledges of aid are only part of the story and as donors have themselves recognized, aid needs to be effective in order to realise its full potential. Greater transparency on aid will make it possible to know what is being spent where, by whom, and with what results. This is the basic foundation for increasing aid effectiveness.

Not only is this great in theory, it’s also happening in practice. To date, donors representing over 75% of Official Development Flows (ODF) are publishing information about their aid in accordance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

IATI has been developed with civil society organisations and developing countries as a standard for publishing aid information which responds to partners’ demands for more detailed and accessible information on current and future activities. It also ensures that information is comparable, allowing partner country governments and civil society organisations to get a complete picture of aid spending in the country – rather than a snapshot from an individual donor’s website.

So while the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius is right to insist on the need for “traceability of aid” – people do want to see where their money is going, all the way down the delivery chain to the ultimate beneficiary – he could however face criticism by demanding greater transparency from the Malian government while not practicing what he preaches at home.

France is one of five EU Member States that have not signaled their intention to publish information about their aid in accordance with the IATI standard and, by far the largest EU donor in this grouping.

France needs to commit to IATI in order to makes its aid more transparent – in the case of Mali, and their other aid recipients. In our 2012 Aid Transparency Index, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MAE), ranked 44th and 62nd respectively.

In the spirit of the Anglo-French entente cordiale blossoming around the G8, France’s support on the UK’s transparency agenda is to be commended, but let’s not forget the promises made at Busan.

The G8 should lead the way in encouraging Busan endorsers – such as France – to meet their transparency commitments and implement IATI. Only then will we know whether the money pledged for the people of Mali has made a difference. When all development actors have more information, they can use it to make better decisions. Citizens and accountability institutions can hold their governments to account and make sure the funds go where they are destined.

Liz Steele

Liz is the EU Representative for Publish What You Fund. You can reach her at liz.steele@publishwhatyoufund.org.
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