Successes – and challenges – for IATI, one year on

Yesterday saw the publication of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) first annual report. The report highlights success of the Initiative itself, while also demonstrating how the entire transparency movement has gained incredible momentum in the last few years.

At Publish What You Fund, we have always argued that transparency and accountability are crucial for successful development.  The success of IATI proves how many organisations agree that open data initiatives, such as IATI, provide huge potential to improve accountability and use resources better.

More than that, IATI is about empowering people on the ground to make better decisions, which means better information being available in partner countries. It also helps donors do their jobs better – informing decisions, working more collaboratively across partnerships, and being more accountable to taxpayers.

IATI is the foundation for transparent aid – we need high quality data, and then we must improve, automate and increase access to and use of that information.

As this is the first IATI Annual Report, it’s our first chance to recognise progress to date – and there is little doubt that IATI has come a long way since its creation, moving from political commitment to action.  The make-up of the IATI standard was agreed less than two years ago and roughly this time last year only 15 agencies had published anything to it.

Now we have reached a tipping point, with over 130 organisations now publishing their data to the IATI common standard, ranging from some of the biggest government and multilateral donors in the world, regional development banks, foundations and trusts down to small NGOs. This represents 76% of global official development finance flows – and also captures some non-official flows.

This is exactly where we expect to be at this stage of the Initiative – but we know we have a long way to go.  Turning transparency promises into reality is not always easy, but momentum continues to grow with Germany now publishing – and we were pleased to see so many ambitious implementation schedules at the end of 2012.

After recently welcoming the first climate finance signatory, and amid rumours that Russia plans to sign, we are getting excited about what the future holds for IATI.

Transparent data can only be useful and empowering if it is comprehensive, accessible, comparable and timely. The onus now is on major donors who have signed IATI to deliver fully on their promises. With sustained political will, 2013 can be the year of implementation, with the data in the IATI registry scaled up and used widely.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate the Secretariat, and also thank them for helping support transparency by promoting IATI. We look forward to seeing rapid progress reported in future annual reports!

David Hall-Matthews

David is the Managing Director at Publish What You Fund. You can reach him at david.hall-matthews@publishwhatyoufund.org.
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