How data helps beat poverty on World Statistics Day

20th October is World Statistics Day. AidInfo have demonstrated the value of statistics in poverty alleviation with a blog which points to Publish What You Fund’s forthcoming Aid Transparency Assessment as an example of the essential and enlightening nature of data. Read below or on their new-look site.

Today, 20.10.2010, has been aptly chosen as the day the world celebrates the importance and achievements of the global statistical system.

World Statistics Day, created by the United Nations Statistics Division, sees a mosaic of activities taking place at international, national and regional levels by governmental and non-governmental organisations. This global celebration serves to acknowledge the importance and influence that the statistical system has in supporting crucial work across a variety of cultures, settings and sectors.

Statistics are an essential in the fight against poverty. They enable us to identify where the need is greatest, to manage services efficiently, to coordinate aid given by many donors, to set and monitor targets, to understand how countries are changing, to understand what is working and why. We need statistics for evidence-based policy-making, and we need statistics to demonstrate the difference that aid is making.

Publish What You Fund, the international campaign for aid transparency, has developed an example of ‘statistics in action’ in the release of their Aid Transparency Assessment, which will be presented for the first time at an OECD workshop on Monday 25 October. This is the first global assessment on aid transparency, bringing together data to compare the transparency of 30 major donors. Without the use of statistics it would not have been possible to produce this enlightening report, but, while the data used was crucial in this instance, it was often difficult to obtain, highlighting the need for increased and improved access to data.

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is an effort by 18 donors to make data about aid spending more comprehensive, detailed and timely, and easier to access and use. When it is implemented next year, aid will be more transparent, accountable and effective.

In a few years time it will seem extraordinary that donors could have been spending more than a hundred billion dollars in developing countries without telling anyone where it is going or what for. Without data we are flying blind: we need information to reduce wastage and overlap, to learn what works and – most of all – to enable citizens to hold authorities to account for how the money is used. We need data that are accessible, comparable and timely so that it is meaningful to users. We congratulate the donors who are implementing IATI on their efforts to make this possible.

The donors have agreed Phase 1 of IATI, which will result in the availability of more timely, accessible and detailed aid data next year, with more to come in Phase 2. This means that receivers of aid, at both a governmental and community level, will be able to plan, manage and account for the aid they receive effectively. This will save lives and help efforts to pull the world’s poorest out of poverty. On World Statistics Day, we pay tribute to the many statisticians and other aid agency staff whose efforts make this possible.

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