News Roundup – Aid, transparency and COVID-19
How transparent is global aid now? – One month until the launch of the 2020 Aid Transparency Index
On 24th June we’ll be joined by friends and colleagues from across the globe as we announce the results of the 2020 Aid Transparency Index. At this time of global pandemic, the transparency of aid remains critically important: for holding donors to account, for tracking spending and ensuring aid gets to where it is needed. In this blog Gary Forster reflects on what we learnt from the last Index, and where we go from here.
The challenge of DFI transparency in the time of COVID
Right now, enormous sums are being committed by western nations to shore up the health care systems and economies of many low and middle-income countries. It is absolutely necessary and the right thing to do. In this guest blog, Rob Mosbacher (former Chair and CEO of OPIC) considers the investments of development finance institutions, the tension between speed and effectiveness, and the role of transparency.
Visualising our data
We publish all of our financial data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Registry as part of our internal Transparency Policy. We’ve just added a visualisation of our revenue and expenditure, based on our IATI data to our website. The visualisation was created by Mark Brough, following some debate about the appropriate granularity of open data.
There has been much in the news recently about the transparency of funding being made available in response to COVID-19. Below we have selected some of these stories, as well as a range of other news stories we’ve been reading over the last month.
The International Budget Partnership (IBP) has released its biennial Open Budget Survey findings, showing budget transparency is still on the up, but there is much room for improvement. The average transparency score was 45 out of 100. Four out of five of the 117 governments assessed failed to reach the minimum threshold for adequate budget transparency and oversight, and even fewer provided opportunities for the public to participate in shaping budget policies or monitoring their implementation. You can see the presentation of findings here. IBP is also calling on governments to achieve four open budgeting targets in the next 5 years: full budget transparency; engage public input; better oversight of budget execution; and sustain improvements in budgeting accountability.
A new blog from the Center for Global Development makes the case for standards for aid tracking and reporting, in the light of the billions currently being mobilised by the international community to fight COVID-19. The authors argue that aid visibility informs data-driven response, draws attention to critical gaps, and ensures accountability. The article also includes a snapshot of the trackers and dashboards currently compiling details of appeals and pledges, though getting a full picture of the financial landscape is difficult.
Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, and Global Witness have called on the IMF to include transparency and anti-corruption measures in coronavirus-related emergency relief programs to ensure that the billions of dollars it is disbursing to dozens of countries help the most vulnerable. They argue that transparency and accountability in government spending is critically important for tackling corruption and ensuring funds are used to save lives and rebuild livelihoods.
A blog by Grant Godfrey of the National Democratic Institute describes how some African politicians are forgoing or donating their money to support national COVID-19 response and recovery. Meanwhile, concerns have been raised around transparency and the risk of corruption. African CSOs are calling for measures to facilitate oversight by lawmakers and citizens, and ensure public confidence in response efforts. The author says that “African leaders have an opportunity to meet the unprecedented needs of coronavirus response in ways that enhance civic participation and improve oversight, by adopting innovative measures of transparency, accountability and citizen outreach.”
Devex is continuing to update its interactive visualisation of COVID-19 funding. It states that between January 1 and May 24, there were 1,714 funding activities announced with more than $15.9 trillion for the fight against COVID-19. Investments of $55 billion have been made via 148 program announcements, and 306 grants have supported $809 million worth of investment.
The Open Government Partnership has created the ‘open response, open recovery’ forum to share resources for transparent, accountable, participatory and inclusive responses to COVID-19 and preparation for recovery and reforms to build more resilient societies post-COVID-19. It features a guide on aid transparency, which includes a series of recommendations for donor agencies and governments, and recipient governments. It remains open for feedback and further contributions.
Countries around the world are facing an unprecedented debt crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a rise to the largest capital outflow from developing countries ever recorded. In this blog, Tim Jones of the Jubilee Debt Campaign proposes a series of measures to make lending more transparent and responsible.
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has released a report and video on the design of a new accountability service for people affected by humanitarian crises. ReliefWatch allows aid recipients to provide qualitative feedback on the assistance and services they receive, and collates their responses to provide useful and actionable feedback to humanitarian staff and donors. It aims to facilitate a more direct relationship between humanitarian organisations and the communities with which they work. Key elements of this concept have been taken forward by Loop, a new initiative that will develop an independent digital feedback monitoring system.
The Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency has launched the Fiscal Data for Emergency Response Guide for COVID19 to help identify data that should be gathered and disclosed.
This Devex article reports on calls from transparency advocates for donors to balance speed with open contracting and procurement. Organisations such as the Open Contracting Partnership want multilateral development banks to ensure the money they disburse comes with clear and strong recommendations to governments about tracking and publishing how those funds are spent.
Seek Development’s Donor Tracker recently held a webinar exploring donor country responses to COVID-19 and discussing trends to watch in the coming weeks, and a recording is now online.
IATI has updated its guidance on how to publish data on COVID-19 using the IATI Standard. Additions have been made following a consultation with stakeholders from across the international development and humanitarian sectors. IATI has also produced new guidance on how to access and use IATI data on COVID-19.
Hamzat Lawal, initiator of Follow the Money (FTM), has written about the launch of the #FollowCOVID19Money campaign to spotlight and scrutinise the use of emergency funds and donations against corruption and abuse in Africa. The campaign aggregates, analyses data and demands transparency and accountability on COVID-19 funds and donations. “The FTM movement in Nigeria, Kenya, The Gambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Malawi and Liberia is putting pressure on national and regional/state governments and agencies to transparently account for every penny received for development interventions and emergency relief during this global emergency. With a network of volunteers of data journalists, researchers, storytellers and activists, FTM tracks, monitors, investigates, reports and exposes discrepancies in the management of donor funds to state institutions responsible for prosecution.”
This blog sets out the Government of Jordan’s approach to building public trust and mutual accountability through transparency and data sharing – and its commitment to the Aid Flows Information System (AFIS).
A blog from Development Initiatives and World Vision focuses on the importance of quality, transparent data at a time of crisis and why it is so important for humanitarian organisations
In a Devex opinion piece, Stephanie Amoako of Accountability Counsel discusses why the announcement by the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) that it is exempt from the Sunshine Act should be a concern for those who value t