After two years of negotiating, the 18 donors of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) agreed on 9th February the final details of a new global standard for publishing aid information. With this format in place that will make aid information internationally comparable, more information will now be better information.
The new aid transparency standard provides a common language and format and a single way that donor countries can share information on the aid they are spending. With this format it will now be possible to build a bigger picture of aid activities which means that donors and recipients can coordinate their plans and complement the activities of others, reducing duplication and waste. However, to see the bigger picture, we need more data.
Publish What You Fund’s Director, Karin Christiansen, welcomed this development: “For the first time, a standard exists which means more aid information will actually be better aid information. And that is what we need to make aid transparent; not only to other governments, and aid agencies, but to the public in all of our countries too.” When everyone can see how much aid is being spent where, and on what, governments – whether giving or receiving aid – can be held accountable by their citizens for spending it well.
Judith Randall, Director of UK NGO aidinfo points out what aid transparency means for developing countries: “If aid recipient governments can find out what aid they will receive next year, they can plan how to use their own resources more effectively. At the moment they can’t see a coherent picture of all the aid coming into their country, making budgetary decisions a constant challenge for them.”
Who are the people behind the new standard? IATI; a group that includes some of the world’s largest donors such as the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), 18 recipient governments and civil society organizations. Over two years’ work has produced this format, but now aid donors need to start using it.
Last week DFID was the first agency to act, putting their aid information on the IATI registry. Major progress is also being made in the US. Although the US is not an IATI signatory, efforts to coordinate with the newly agreed standard suggest that as the US aid dashboard moves forward, foreign assistance could be mapped to both other donors’ and recipient countries’ own spending.
To fully realize the potential of aid, other country governments must be urged to open their books and let the world know where their money is going too. Now that more information is better, it is time for the data to flow.