London – Yesterday 35 Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations from across the world urged development ministers to change the way countries give and receive aid forever.
In what could be an historic meeting on 7th July in Paris, donor governments will have the opportunity to agree the cornerstone of a global standard for publishing information on aid. What first appears a bureaucratic technicality in fact holds unparalleled potential to increase the impact of aid in developing countries.
Karin Christiansen, Director of the global campaign for aid transparency, Publish What You Fund, said, “I guess this could sound dull, but it’s actually revolutionary. This is like creating HTML, agreed weights and measures, or an accounting standard; without common formats we couldn’t communicate on the web or buy and sell effectively.”
At present not a single country could tell you exactly how much aid they are giving or receiving right now. This major lack of information hinders long term planning in recipient countries, makes meaningful evaluation of past projects virtually impossible, and undermines accountability in both donor and recipient countries. As a result, debates about whether or why aid works, where it should go, to whom, and on what basis have never had the information needed to really answer these questions.
Timely, comprehensive and comparable aid information would inform governments of what they are spending or receiving, where that money is going, and allow them to find out whether it’s working. In addition, disclosure in a common standard allows donors to coordinate their efforts and align their resources with the development agendas and budgets of recipient countries.
To that end, CSOs have specifically urged that the IATI Standard “ensures the provision of:
· “Up-to-date information on current aid flows to support improved management of these resources;
· information on future aid flows, to assist donors, NGOs and particularly recipients’ in planning and budgeting;
· the publication of aid information using common definitions and formats that are compatible with partner countries budgets and systems.”
Let’s see what happens on the 7th. It’s now up to the donors to decide what the future of aid will look like.