The Story of Aid Transparency

This timeline provides some critical moments in the evolution of the aid and development transparency agenda.

February, 2005

Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness is signed. Building on the earlier Rome Declaration on aid harmonisation, the Paris Declaration was a critical moment. Donors committed to make aid more effective through better coordination, both with partner countries and each other. They soon realised that this would need higher quality information.

September, 2008

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is launched. IATI was set up by a group of donors including the European Commission, the Governments of the UK and Germany, and the World Bank at the Accra Agenda for Action. From the beginning it was intended as both a multi-stakeholder initiative and an open data standard.

September, 2008

Publish What You Fund is founded. A group of people working on governance, aid effectiveness and access to information came together to set up Publish What You Fund. They wanted to campaign for more and better information on donors’ aid activities. They agreed to support IATI to develop an open data standard for sharing information.

April, 2010

World Bank opens its data to everyone. Bank President Robert Zoellick announced that the bank would make its data free for everyone to download and use, as people had already paid for it once through their taxes. Over 7,000 data sets were subsequently released.

February, 2011

First data published in the IATI standard. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) published the first data set in the new IATI standard. For the first time, this was a way of sharing data on aid that was timely, comprehensive, comparable and accessible.

June, 2011

Make Aid Transparent Campaign. Over 63,000 people in 118 countries joined our call to Make Aid Transparent. The campaign was led by Publish What You Fund and civil society partners including ONE, Oxfam and Transparency International.

October, 2011

The Pilot Aid Transparency Index is published. Publish What You Fund’s Index was the first systematic assessment of the state of aid transparency. It found there was little information that could be used for decision-making, coordination or to hold donors to account. The World Bank came top in the Index, followed by the Global Fund.

December, 2011

Donors commit to make aid transparent at Busan. At the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan, Republic of Korea, donors committed to publish timely, comprehensive and forward-looking data on aid by 2015. The United States also announced it was joining IATI at the summit, although it did not publish any information until early 2013.

June, 2013

G8 summit agrees an Open Data Charter. Countries attending the G8 Lough Erne Summit agreed an Open Data Charter, which included the Busan Commitment to aid transparency. Germany and France published their first IATI data that year. The Charter has now been endorsed by over 40 governments and 30 other organisations.

October, 2014

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) comes top of the Aid Transparency Index. UNDP was the first UN agency to come top, following DFID in 2012 and the US Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2013. However, overall scores remained disappointingly low and many donors were still making slow progress.

July, 2015

United Nations members collectively commit to publish and use data on aid. At the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, member states committed to publish aid using open data standards, join up the standards, and promote the use of data. Publish What You Fund worked with over 30 partners to make this happen.

April, 2016

25% of aid now meets ‘very good’ transparency standard. Five years after the pilot Aid Transparency Index, Publish What You Fund found that aid is getting more transparent, but there is still a long way to go. Bangladesh and Myanmar are importing IATI data to their country systems, but have to supplement it with data gathered locally.

May, 2016

‘Grand Bargain’ for humanitarian aid. Donors at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul agreed to give contractors greater freedom of action in return for more data on their activities. As part of this agreement, donors agreed to publish data in real time using IATI and the Financial Tracking System (FTS).

January, 2017

Publish What You Fund listens to data users on the future of aid transparency. The new Index methodology incorporates feedback from over 60 people, including data publishers and users in countries ranging from Afghanistan and Vietnam to the United States and European Union.