The Busan Outcome Document, or ‘Busan Partnership for effective development co-operation’ agreed on 1st December 2011, has resulted in four important developments for aid transparency within the aid effectiveness process associated to the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness:
- Donors, partner countries and civil society have agreed that transparency is a shared principle and foundation for effective development cooperation; (§ 11d)
- Donors have made time-bound commitments to fully publish their aid information to the common standard (IATI – International Aid Transparency Initiative) by 2015; (§ 23c)
- Donors have strengthened their commitment to improving predictability by 2013. (§ 24)
- The “New Deal” for situations of conflict and fragility is welcomed, which supports good practice consistent with the IATI standard. (§ 26)
However, several elements of the text were weakened during negotiations, particularly the inclusion of a clause that may encourage the exemption from publication of aid flows that are channelled through “commercial” operators.
Below is the excerpt from the preamble.
“Shared principles to achieve common goals
§ 11. As we embrace the diversity that underpins our partnership and the catalytic role of development co-operation, we share common principles which – consistent with our agreed international commitments on human rights, decent work, gender equality, environmental sustainability and disability – form the foundation of our co-operation for effective development:
d) Transparency and accountability to each other. Mutual accountability and accountability to the intended beneficiaries of our co-operation, as well as to our respective citizens, organisations, constituents and shareholders, is critical to delivering results. Transparent practices form the basis for enhanced accountability.”
Below is a textual analysis of the main transparency section.
“Transparent and responsible co-operation
§ 23. We will work to improve the availability and public accessibility of information on development co-operation and other development resources, building on our respective commitments in this area. To this end, we will:
a) Make the full range of information on publicly funded development activities, their financing, terms and conditions, and contribution to development results, publicly available subject to legitimate concerns about commercially sensitive information.”
- This means that donors have committed to publishing any “terms and conditions” attached to development activity agreements.
- Any exemptions to publication on the grounds of commercial sensitivities must be defined as follows:
a) Proven to be a legitimate redaction in that release of information would substantially prejudice that commercial interest.
b) And that information is only redacted (i.e. specific sensitive information) and that whole projects or programmes are not removed.
These are in line with Freedom of Information policies and do not trump domestic legislation.
“§ 23 b) Focus, at the country level, on establishing transparent public financial managementand aid information management systems, and strengthen the capacities of all relevant stakeholders to make better use of this information in decision-making and to promote accountability.” (Emphasis added)
- Donors and partner countries should ensure that aid information and public financial management systems in country are both compatible with each other and with the common standard for aid information (IATI).
“§ 23 c) Implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development co-operation, taking into account the statistical reporting of the OECD-DAC and the complementary efforts of the International Aid Transparency Initiative and others. This standard must meet the information needs of developing countries and non-state actors, consistent with national requirements. We will agree on this standard and publish our respective schedules to implement it by December 2012, with the aim of implementing it fully by December 2015.” (Emphasis added)
Key points are:
- The “common, open standard” is generally held to be IATI; there is no appetite to develop a new standard.
- This phrasing is slightly cumbersome as it does not take into account that the IATI common standard was explicitly based on the OECD-DAC’s CRS reporting system.
- IATI was designed specifically to meet the information needs of all stakeholders – developing countries, CSOs and donors themselves.
- For the standard to be “consistent with national requirements”, all aid actors must deliver on predictability (see Para 24 below) and work to complete the “budget identifier” component of IATI, which will map aid flows directly onto partner country budgets.
- IATI implementation is already gathering momentum (for details see www.aidtransparency.net). Those donors who have not already done so need to produce IATI implementation schedules by the end of 2012, explaining:
a) How they will implement the common standard;
b) When they will start publishing to the IATI Registry;
c) When they will complete the implementation ahead of the MDGs deadline.
“§ 24. We will also work to make development co-operation more predictable in its nature. To this end:
a) Those of us who committed, through the Accra Agenda for Action, to improve medium-term predictability will implement fully our commitments in this area, introducing reforms where needed. By 2013, they will provide available, regular, timely rolling three- to five-year indicative forward expenditure and/or implementation plans as agreed in Accra to all developing countries with which they co-operate. Other actors will aim to provide developing countries with timely and relevant information on their intentions with regard to future co-operation over the medium term.”
- IATI is the only mechanism developed to help donors deliver on their predictability commitments. Paragraph 24 sets out their commitment to implement, by 2013, these Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) commitments (agreed in 2008), which are as follows:
“Donors will provide full and timely information on annual commitments and actual disbursements so that developing countries are in a position to accurately record all aid flows in their budget estimates and their accounting systems.” (§26b, AAA)
“Donors will provide developing countries with regular and timely information on their rolling three to five year forward expenditure and/or implementation plans.” (§26c, AAA)
“Promoting sustainable development in situations of conflict and fragility
§ 26. Fragile states are for the large part off-track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)…. We welcome the New Deal developed by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, including the g7+ group of fragile and conflict–?affected states. Those of us who have endorsed the New Deal will pursue actions to implement it…”
- Paragraph 26 cites “The New Deal”, which sets out an approach to transparency of aid (ODA and non-ODA) in situations of conflict and fragility:
“We will support the greater transparency of fiscal systems in a manner consistent to capacity and context, drawing from good practice from the g7+ and agreed international benchmarks on transparency of aid resources in a manner consistent with International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) compatible standards.” (III)