Impact of the Aid Transparency Index

Guest post by Nathaniel Heller, Global Integrity

Every year, Publish What You Fund produces an index to rank donors according to how transparent they are about the aid they give. The Index has become the industry standard, assessing the state of aid transparency among the world’s major donors, while encouraging progress and holding them to account.

I am a peer reviewer for the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, so I’m naturally biased. Regardless, I am a believer that the Index is fantastically useful tool for monitoring the progress made by donors with implementing their own commitments to make aid transparent. It’s also based in part on original on-the-ground research and is thus superior to similar products that rely on composites of already shaky data, such as the Commitment to Development index.

The Index was developed in response to the Accra commitments made by donors to improve the transparency of their aid. Of the 39 indicators used, three look at donors’ overall commitment to aid transparency, for example the quality of their Freedom of Information legislation and the overall accessibility of their data; and the remaining 36 look at what information donors are publishing.

These were selected using the information types agreed in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which is part of the ‘common, open standard’ endorsed by all donors as part of the Busan Agreement.

The deadline for collecting data for this year’s Index was 31st July. This means donors had until the end of last month to make one final attempt at improving their Index ranking – and the team at PWYF tell me that several of them did, with a flurry of activity and phone calls in the final days of July. This is fundamentally what makes for a good index: incentivizing those being measured to change their behaviour.

In many cases, donors that are working to improve their aid transparency are keen to have their efforts reflected in the Index. Year-on-year, donors can improve either by making the information they already publish comprehensive for all their activities, or by publishing information items for the first time.

In previous years, PWYF used Global Integrity’s Indaba platform to collect the data for the Index. This year, for the first time, the Index also analyses the quality of data released through IATI using a new platform, the Aid Transparency Tracker, to pull everything together.

Donors could access the Tracker at any time during the data collection period to see how they were being scored on particular indicators and where there were gaps. The PWYF team were also able to advise donors on what information they were looking for, what they could/couldn’t find, and why.

Of course the best way for donors to improve their ranking is to begin publishing to IATI. IATI publishers tend to organise and publish their information more consistently and comprehensively, particularly at the activity-level. Also, the Index takes into account the accessibility of the information being published, so the more open and comparable the information is, the more highly valued it is. This means that, in general, donors who lock their information away in PDFs won’t do well in the Index. And honestly, if in 2013 you are still publishing data in PDFs you deserve a healthy dose of public shame.

We can already get a sense of the impact the data collection deadline has had on donors. Of the 2,000 or so packages the Tracker is monitoring on the IATI Registry, 37% changed in the last week of July. In total, there have been 10 new IATI publishers since data collection started in April, and nine publishers significantly improved their data between April and July. Here’s the full list of new publishers and donors that have improved their IATI implementation schedules:

New publishers New implementation schedules Updated implementation schedules
African Development Bank (AfDB) Enlargement DEVCO (EC)
Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI) -EC FPI-EC UNDP
DG Enlargement (EU) FCO (UK) UNICEF
ECHO (EC) MINEFI (France) SDC (Switzerland)
Irish Aid (Ireland) AA (Germany) UN-OCHA
New Zealand AusAID
MCC (US) World Bank
Treasury (US)


In addition, the following donors significantly improved the quality of their IATI data during this time: Asian Develpment Bank, CIDA, UK-DFID, EC-DEVCO, GAVI, IADB, UNDP, USAID and the World Bank.

Many donors engage typically both during the data collection period and after the Index is published. But this year was unprecedented. An impressive 29 of the 67 agencies included in the Index are now publishing IATI data in some form (although to varying degrees, and this is something the Index authors are analysing at the moment.)

The 2013 Index will be published in October so we’ll get to see the final results then. For donors who didn’t rush to meet the July deadline, don’t worry – there’s always 2014!


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