This is the official statement from the Korea Civil Society Forum on International Development Cooperation (KOFID) in reaction to the Government of Korea’s first publication to IATI. It was originally published in Korean on KOFID’s website on 12th August 2016.
Korean Government’s Disclosure of ODA Information is Disappointing at Best
Far behind to uphold the principles of openness, transparency and sharing adopted in the Government 3.0
- On August 11, 2016, the Korean government announced that it became “the first Asian government” to disclose, voluntarily, information on Korea’s official development assistance (ODA) activities to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The action seemingly amounts to a meaningful first step toward ensuring transparency in governmental development assistance according to a widely accepted international standard. However, the Korean government in fact provided nothing more than the most basic of ODA information, and has failed to meet the standard of transparency demanded by the international community.
- The Korean government disclosed information on 13 of the 39 elements required by IATI, concerning the executive agencies and projects involved in ODA. Of the seven elements of the organization standard, the Korean government disclosed only the organization-identifier, name, and the reporting organization. Of the 32 elements of the activity standard, the Korean government provided 10 elements only, including title, activity-date, recipient-country, and sector. Such information is not sufficient to provide a detailed account of Korea’s ODA projects nor determine whether the projects are effectively conducted according to objectives. By contrast, Japan, an observer state of the IATI, disclosed information on 21 elements of the IATI Standard. Even if we were to concede that this year marks the first instance for Korea to implement the IATI Standard, the amount and quality of information the country has disclosed do not support the Korean government’s proud claim to be the first Asian country to do so. In Asia, Korea and Japan are the only two countries that are member states of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
- It is important for both donor and recipient countries to disclose their ODA information transparently. Governments are accountable to taxpayers and therefore have the fundamental responsibility of making sure that the ODA projects, run on taxpayers’ money, do not duplicate or cause any waste, and function as planned and intended. Disclosure of information is also critical to consolidating public support for ODA in donor countries, and enables governments of recipient countries to plan and devise their policies systematically. The amount and quality of ODA information disclosed by the Korean government, however, are barely fit to achieve these purposes. It is impossible to compare and monitor the details of ODA with such minimal information only. Nor is the information enough for the governments of recipient countries to develop and implement meaningful development plans. As a member state of IATI, the Korean government should make available a far greater range of information regarding the specific types of assistance and capital involved and the terms and conditions attached thereto.
- There is a long way before Korea substantially improves the transparency and effectiveness of its ODA. In the Second Mid-term ODA Policy for 2016-2020, the Korean government stated that it would consider increasing the amount of information to be disclosed according to the IATI Standard. The Korean government, however, has yet to present a specific implementation plan. Considering Korea’s ODA fragmentation, it is important to disclose information about not only the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), but also all the agencies of the central government that are undertaking their own ODA projects today.
- One may disclose information, but mere disclosure does not ensure the openness, transparency, and sharing of information if the disclosed information remains inaccessible. The Korean government has ambitiously launched the “Government 3.0”, aspiring toward greater transparency and sharing of public information under a new paradigm of governance. Yet the strategy remains a mere slogan in numerous governmental organizations and departments. Disclosure of information entails the duty to make the disclosed information available and accessible. Data should be provided in forms amenable to analysis and application, and via channels that are easily accessible to users. The ODA information the Korean government has provided, however, consists of attachments only, making it impossible for the general public to search and access them on the Internet. In order for Korea’s first step toward greater transparency in ODA to be more than just vain words, the Korean government must make efforts to ensure the availability, accessibility, and application of the information it provides.