Publish What You Fund is the global campaign for aid and development transparency. Since our establishment in 2008, Publish What You Fund has successfully driven increased transparency among aid donors and development agencies. As a small evidenced-based advocacy non-governmental organisation, we have been able to effectively influence some of the largest aid donors in the world to ‘publish more and publish better’.
Our approach is underpinned by:
- An evidenced-based advocacy strategy that has built constructive relationships with donors and other stakeholders to continue to push for quality and accessible aid and development information.
- Robust research, which is open to public scrutiny.
- A collaborative approach, with a strong and growing range of networks and partnerships at international and national level.
- Technical expertise and detailed understanding of aid and development data platforms and standards.
We envisage a world where aid and development information is transparent, available and used for effective and inclusive decision-making, public accountability and lasting change for all citizens. Our 2021-2024 strategy sets out our current goals, which are based on three strategic pillars:
- Engaging with data: Collaborating to ensure that actors engage around development data and that this data is used to contribute to improved outcomes and achievement of local, national and global development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Full transparency: Making all aid and development finance data transparent, available and usable.
- More quality data: Strengthening and extending our research, advocacy and technical expertise to improve the quality and usability of aid and development finance information.
Our focus is on governments and institutions that provide aid and development finance. The scope of this work is growing as more money flows to the private sector, through climate finance and to humanitarian emergencies. We concentrate on the largest providers of aid and development finance as we want the maximum amount of information as possible to be open.
The Aid Transparency Index is the only independent measure of transparency among the world’s leading development organisations. It is a periodic publication researched and produced by Publish What You Fund. The Index tracks and encourages progress towards aid transparency, while holding donors to account.
For the 2022 Index, 50 donors were assessed. Details on the criteria for inclusion in the Index can be found in the
The Index is an interactive process and Publish What You Fund strongly engages with the donor organisations it is assessing. At the beginning of data collection, Publish What You Fund shares a preliminary assessment of each organisation’s level of transparency and remains available throughout and after the data collection period to respond to questions and queries. Additionally, for the first time in 2018, Publish What You Fund provided donors with the Data Quality Tester, a new open source tool that allows organisations to independently test the quality of their data against the Index methodology.
To ensure both the accuracy and impartiality of the Index, independent reviewers also provide feedback, comments and suggestions on assessments. They typically come from CSOs, think tanks or universities familiar with the donor organisation concerned or the development sector more broadly. Further input is provided by a group of peer reviewers, comprised of recognised experts in the development sector and/or on open data. They advise Publish What You Fund on the methodology and related assessments.
The Aid Transparency Index aims to push donors to publish their aid and development information in an open data format. As the global aid landscape changes and donors make progress towards this goal, the methodology has been revised and developed to remain relevant. The Aid Transparency Index methodology was revised for the 2013 Index and again for the 2018 and 2022 Index.
The 2022 Index features some changes to the index methodology. Following an assessement method review, we have updated and re-issued the technical paper incorporating minor adjustments .
The 2022 Aid Transparency Index technical paper contains a full account of the scoring system and indicator definitions.
More details of the methodology, scoring and indicator definitions are given on the methodology page
We review the criteria for donor selection before each Index process begins. We assessed 47 donors in 2020 and 45 in 2018. For the 2022 Index we will assess 50 donors. Details of the donors included in 2022 can be found here.
The Aid Transparency Index assesses more than one agency for some large donors (European Commission, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States and the World Bank) with multiple ministries or organisations responsible for significant proportions of ODA. We have opted to maintain the disaggregation of agencies for several reasons. First, no two agencies from the same donor country or organisation in the Index score the same. There is often wide variation in the amount of information made available by different agencies in a single country or multilateral organisation. Second, agencies often retain a large amount of autonomy in deciding how much information they make available and have different publication approaches, which they should be held accountable for. Third, it would be unfair for high performing agencies within a country or organisation to be pulled down by lower performing agencies. Similarly, lower performing agencies should not have their poor performance masked in an average score. Finally, it is unclear how we can aggregate agencies into a single country or organisation score in a way that reflects wide variations in performance. It would be necessary to take into account the proportion of a country’s aid delivered by each separate agency in order to create an aggregate country ranking that fairly reflects that country’s level of aid transparency and this information is not always available.
No we are not. Publish What You Fund and Publish What You Pay are two independent organisations. We work on aid transparency and Publish What You Pay focuses on transparency in the extractives sector. Publish What You Pay supports the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which shares similar aims to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), but in a different sector.
More detailed questions about the Aid Transparency Index
Manual checks and sampling are conducted by Publish What You Fund staff on 16 indicators published in the IATI Standard. The purpose is to ensure that the information published for these indicators is what it should be and encourages the publication of high quality information to the IATI Registry with the aim of benefiting data users.
Manual checks and sampling are conducted twice: first, as part of the initial assessment; second, at the end of data collection. The results of the first round of manual checks and sampling are shared with the donor organisation, giving them the chance to fix any issues. After data collection has closed, Publish What You Fund will notify donors of sampling results in order that any data errors can be fixed. However, improvements to this data will not be taken into account for the final Index results.
For five indicators relating to organisational planning, Publish What You Fund’s team will manually check that the documents published on the IATI Registry are up-to-date and meet both the requirements of the IATI Standard and the Index indicator definition. A single document is expected for each of the following indicators: organisation strategy, annual report, allocation policy, procurement policy and audit.
For individual projects and operations, 11 indicators are sampled to manually verify that the information provided meets the required criteria and definition against which they are being scored. This includes, among others, project budget documents, reviews and evaluations as well as sub-national locations. Sampling is conducted on 20 current projects and operations. These are randomly selected. A minimum of ten project documents or data need to pass sampling to be scored as IATI data.
For a full list of sampled indicators and more details, please see the2022 technical paper.
Data must be current for an organisation to be able to score on each indicator. For purposes of the Index, “current” is defined as published within the 12-months immediately preceding the end of the data collection period, e.g. “current” information was published between the 9th of March 2021 and the 9th of March 2022. Information published before this period is not accepted as current and information published after the close of data collection cannot be considered in the assessment. Documents that are not current under this definition are accepted only if they are up to date with their regular cycle of publication or if they have explicit extensions written into them.
Information published in machine-readable formats is presented in a structured way (not free text) that can be read automatically by a computer. Formats such as XML or spreadsheets (XLSX, CSV) are machine-readable formats. Data in traditional word-processed documents, HTML and PDF files are easily read by humans but are difficult for machines to interpret. Publishing data in a structured, machine-readable open format allows activities of different organisations to be quickly collected and compared. By contrast, comparing activities across multiple organisations or countries would require searching multiple websites and aggregating information published in different PDF files. This difference is reflected in the Index scoring, whereby organisations can get more points on indicators published in machine-readable formats. Data published in the IATI Standard, the only open standard for aid and development finance data, scores highest, followed by data published in other machine-readable formats, then websites and finally PDF files.
For details on the scores given per format, please see the 2022 technical paper.
The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) provides a standard framework for publishing aid and development information. IATI is a ‘multi-stakeholder initiative’ with members including governments, multilateral organisations and civil society groups. The IATI Standard allows funders and implementing organisations to publish their data on aid and development finance in a common format that allows for comparison across organisations. Over one million development and humanitarian activities have been published in the IATI Standard.
Publishing in the IATI Standard requires set information to be disclosed in a standard format, including a project’s title and the type of work being done. Financial and transaction data, such as budgets, commitments and disbursements are also standardised. The advantage of this is that information can be easily understood and compared. It is also timely and can be both current and forward-looking. Aid organisations can also publish more detailed documentation about their projects, including contracts, evaluations and results. Data published in the Standard is open, which means it can be used and reused by anyone and everyone for free.
The IATI Standard is machine readable, so computers are able to quickly download and analyse the data. Importantly, the forward-looking data published in the Standard allows partner countries and organisations receiving aid and development finance to plan their budgets better.
The Aid Transparency Index measures donor progress towards aid transparency and is produced by Publish What You Fund, an independent civil society campaign. The Aid Transparency Index does not only include IATI publishers but also looks at other donors. IATI is an initiative that promotes and maintains an open data standard. Publish What You Fund was an early supporter of IATI, and held one of two civil society seats on the IATI Board until March 2018.
As an organisation we are committed to high internal transparency standards. We publish all of our financial data to the IATI Registry as part of our internal Transparency Policy that outlines our approach to organisational Ethics, Governance and Disclosure of Information. You can see a visualisation of our revenue and expenditure, based on our IATI data here.
Questions about the DFI Transparency Index
Publish What You Fund has published the Aid Transparency Index for 10 years. The Aid Transparency Index is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major bilateral and multilateral development agencies. In later editions, the Aid Transparency Index has included assessments of multilateral DFIs. For the first time in 2022, these DFIs had their sovereign and non-sovereign portfolios assessed separately. It is therefore important to explain the need for a new index of DFIs’ transparency and outline the principal differences between the two indexes. In turn, this will help to explain the different scores that institutions receive in the two assessments.
At its core, the Aid Transparency Index is primarily a measure of the extent and quality of data that aid agencies and other institutions (such as DFIs) publish in the IATI Standard. While being an IATI publisher is not a prerequisite of inclusion in the Aid Transparency Index, it remains the fact that in the most recent edition of the index all but three of the institutions included published IATI data. The predominance of IATI publishers in the Aid Transparency Index is partly a result of the Aid Transparency Index’s success in incentivising the publication of aid data to a globally recognised open data standard. Furthermore, publication in the IATI Standard is fundamental to scoring highly in the Aid Transparency Index; institutions that do not publish IATI data cannot score above 51.875 points. Across its history the Aid Transparency Index has been successful in improving the quantity and quality of aid data that is disclosed. It has also provided a basis for comparing data across a range of institutions; from bilateral aid agencies, to development banks, philanthropic organisations and United Nations agencies.
While there are clear benefits of comparability across this range of donors, DFIs have their own unique attributes that are not covered in the Aid Transparency Index. DFIs have different mandates to other aid agencies, including their role in mobilising private sector investment and financial additionality, which we believe warranted a separate index process. Also, there are characteristics of a subset of DFI activities that necessitate a form of transparency that is not adequately covered by the IATI Standard. DFIs have historically financed activities that contain significant environmental and social risks. These include the financing of major infrastructure projects and routing of capital through financial intermediaries. Our research into these subjects highlighted the need to measure transparency in new ways that are not included in the Aid Transparency Index. In some cases, prioritising formats other than IATI.
The strength of IATI is its standardisation of aid information, its timeliness, and the fact that it is fully open, machine-readable data, accessible from a central registry. This means it can be compared, aggregated and disaggregated for macro or micro-level analysis. There are, however, aspects of DFI business models that are fundamental to many of their mandates that are currently not accommodated by the IATI Standard. A number of these relate to the financial aims and structuring of DFI investments, including the use of co-financed financial instruments, the mobilisation of private finance, and the use of concessional funding in the form of technical assistance and blended finance. As these types of data cannot currently be published in the IATI Standard, they are not captured in the Aid Transparency Index, and it is necessary to assess the disclosure of them in other ways.
The Aid Transparency Index and the DFI Transparency Index both measure transparency, but the DFI Transparency Index allows for a more customised assessment that is tailored specifically to DFIs’ business models. These differing methodologies inevitably result in different scores for institutions that are included in both indexes. This is not inconsistent, but rather reflects that an institution may have different aspects of transparency being measured leading to different outcomes.
We recognise that for DFIs included in both the Aid Transparency Index and the DFI Transparency Index the current arrangement may not seem ideal. We have sought to reduce the burden of this arrangement by aligning the indexes to the greatest degree possible, while retaining their individual significance and the logics behind their use. We will continue to assess the relationship between the two indexes.
Both the DFI Transparency Tool and the DFI Transparency Index were developed as part of Publish What You Fund’s DFI Transparency Initiative. The initiative was a multi-stakeholder research and advocacy project that aimed to improve the transparency of DFIs. We researched the state of DFI transparency and opportunities for improvement between November 2019 and November 2021. The initiative identified the need for sustainable products that would facilitate and encourage enduring change over time.
The DFI Transparency Tool has two functions. First, it is intended to provide granular guidance to DFIs about the types of information that a range of stakeholders value and that should therefore be disclosed, based on their obligations as publicly owned entities that manage and disburse public money. Second, it forms the basis of assessments of the transparency of DFIs (the DFI Transparency Index).
The DFI Transparency Index measures, assesses, and ranks the transparency of leading DFIs against a set of indicators that are informed by the research behind the DFI Transparency Tool.
The First DFI Transparency Index was conducted between May 2022 and January 2023. Our intention is to continue running the index on a two-year cycle, recognising that it can take significant amounts of time for DFIs to change practice and policies. However, future indexes are dependent on securing further funding for this undertaking.
Our criteria for determining which DFIs feature in the index is based on the primary mandates of the institutions, their size, the geographic scope of their work, and their suitability for assessment according to current reporting practices. We have developed separate selection criteria for multilateral and bilateral DFIs due to their vastly different sizes and varying mandates. Our selection has been guided by data from the Finance in Common PDB Database. The criteria are as follows:
Multilateral DFIs (Sovereign and Non-Sovereign)
- Institutions must have a primary focus on investing in activities with a development objective. Trade finance institutions, including export import banks, are excluded from the assessment.
- Institutions must have a total asset size over US $15 billion. For DFIs that operate separate institutions under a group, then total group assets may be considered.
- Institutions must work internationally.
- Institutions must demonstrate a fundamental commitment to transparency through the maintenance of a database or list of active investments.
- Institutions must have a primary focus on investing in private sector activities with a development objective. Trade finance institutions, including export import banks, are excluded from the assessment.
- Institutions must have a total asset size over US$500 million.
- Institutions must work internationally.
- Institutions must demonstrate a fundamental commitment to transparency through the maintenance of a database or list of active investments.
 Xu, Jiajun, Régis Marodon, Xinshun Ru, Xiaomeng Ren, and Xinyue Wu. 2021. “What are Public Development Banks and Development Financing Institutions? Qualification Criteria, Stylized Facts and Development Trends.” China Economic Quarterly International, volume 1, issue 4: 271-294.
The DFI Transparency Index assesses the transparency of DFI lending to financial intermediaries (including funds, banks, and non-bank financial institutions) as well as a subset of financial intermediary sub-investments. At the level of the financial intermediary, DFI investments are treated in the same way as DFI direct investments in other sectors and, as such, the same level of transparency is expected. Reflecting this, DFI investments in financial intermediaries may be included in the samples of projects that we analyse.
We limit our assessment of financial intermediary sub-investments to a sub-set of total on-lending activity. This is in recognition of the fact that a significant proportion of financial intermediary on-lending targets relatively low risk sectors, including MSME financing and housing finance. With this in mind, we limit our assessment to the disclosure of sub-investments of funds (such as private equity funds) and high risk and/or large on lending activities by banks. We define high risk and/or large as Category A (or equivalent) sub-investments and sub-investments that are larger than the thresholds established by the Equator Principles. The Equator Principles represent an internationally recognised standard for the identification of high-risk financing.
The DFI Transparency Index assesses both sovereign and non-sovereign lending by DFIs. In the case of sovereign lending, our assessment is limited to leading multilateral DFIs, while assessment of non-sovereign lending includes both multilateral and bilateral DFIs. For multilateral DFIs that conduct both sovereign and non-sovereign activities we assess each separately.
While we assess both forms of lending, our analysis and ranking separate sovereign and non-sovereign lending. This is a result of our recognition that the two types of lending involve significantly different business models and, as such, necessitate the disclosure of different types of information. As the DFI Transparency Tool varies across the two types of lending, and the DFI Transparency Index includes different indicators in line with the tool, it is necessary to weigh the constituent indicators differently. With this in mind, we conduct two rankings.
The results of the DFI Transparency Index are presented in a report that was launched on January 25th 2023 through an in-person and virtual event at the Brookings Institution, Washington DC. In addition to the report, the DFI Transparency Index webpage contains the Index results. We also publish individual DFI Profiles that provide DFI-specific analysis of the transparency of the institutions included in our assessment.