As Communications Manager here at Publish What You Fund, I often get calls from journalists, researchers, academics, and NGOs looking for information about a particular donor’s aid spending.
It is the nature of the job – and a testament to the fact that we are the leading organisation in the field of aid transparency – that we are the first port of call for this type of information. But that only makes it more disappointing when I have to respond with a long, complicated answer about multiple data sources and agencies and formats and…well, you get the picture.
That’s because there is no easy answer to some very simple questions about aid.
In recent months, journalists from all over the world have called asking about aid spending in the Philippines and Syria. And just yesterday, a journalist asked me how much the U.S. gives in aid to the Ukraine, if any. It’s a simple enough question, which you think would illicit a simple enough response. (His editors surely did.)
But instead, I explained how many U.S. agencies give aid – not just USAID, as he had thought. Then, I pointed him to several different data sources – the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, Congressional Budget Justifications for individual agencies, and the President’s Budget. I told him he could even look at past spending patterns to get a good idea.
In the end, I repeated what I’m always forced to say to (often surprised) journalists: as it stands, there is no single place where we can find this figure.
Enter the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) – otherwise known as the solution to this problem. When all donors publish comprehensive and timely aid information to IATI, it will be a simple matter of going to the site and finding aid data there.
When all donors are publishing to IATI, we will have a one-stop-shop for information on all donors’ aid spending – whether it is what the U.S. has spent in Ukraine or France has spent in Mali.
When all donors are publishing to IATI, journalists will no longer have to call every NGO, agency and statistician under the sun to find what should be a simple figure.
I know the type of questions journalists have about aid, but that has got me curious: what are YOUR questions about aid? What type of information would you like to know about aid spending in your country, or by your country? And what would you use this information for?
I’d be really interested to hear people’s responses, either in the comments section below or by tweeting @aidtransparency!