UK press release
The 2020 Aid Transparency Index, based on data collected just prior to the merger announcement, highlights:
- The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) retains its place in the ‘very good’ category, the second most transparent bilateral aid agency in the world.
- The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) ranks near the bottom of the ‘fair’ category and scores zero for performance information including objectives and results, limiting the ability of stakeholders to gauge the effectiveness and value of its aid spending.
- The risks and opportunities facing the newly announced Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are significant.
- Globally, there has been significant improvement in donors’ overall transparency compared to 2018. Over half of the 47 assessed donors rank as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
The 2020 Aid Transparency Index reveals an improvement in overall transparency among the world’s major aid agencies, but there remains a gulf in the performance of the two UK donors included in the ranking. Released today by Publish What You Fund, the Index is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major aid donors. The research, undertaken before last week’s announcement of a merger, shows that while DFID remained in the ‘very good’ category as a global leader in aid transparency, the FCO ranked 38th out of 47 donors and failed to publish adequate information on the performance of its aid projects. As the shrinking UK economy puts aid under increasing financial pressure and resources are redirected to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, the Index results provide a timely reminder that we need to know that our aid is being spent in the most effective way to achieve the greatest impact.
Specifically, DFID ranked ninth in the Index and is the second-highest scoring bilateral donor, second only to the US Millennium Challenge Corporation. DFID could have further improved its transparency by publishing more contracts and tenders, and more sub-national locations for activities –information that is highly valued by in-country stakeholders.
Meanwhile FCO ranked in the ‘fair’ category of the Index. This is a noteworthy move up from the ‘poor’ category in the 2018 Aid Transparency Index. However, the FCO scored no points (out of 20) in the performance component of the Index. The pre-project impact appraisals, project objectives, results and evaluations published by the FCO failed our quality checks.
Globally, specialised aid agencies generally performed better in the Index than non-specialised ministries (foreign, trade, or defence ministries that have aid delivery in their mandate) – with an average of 59.5 and 47.7 points respectively.
Gary Forster, CEO of Publish What You Fund, said:
“While DFID historically spent the majority of UK aid, and continued to be a leader in its class, there is no getting away from the fact that the FCO consistently failed to adopt the same practices. The FCO’s failure to publish evidence as to the impact of its activities bears testament to this. At a time when many SDG targets are getting away from us, it is of paramount importance that we allocate UK aid to the kinds of activities that have proven and replicable impact. Without results and evaluations it’s just not clear how we do that.”
“Speaking more broadly, transparency serves to protect the UK from reputational damage. It helps to ensure that aid decisions are made based on need and poverty-alleviating potential rather than for political or commercial gain. It is difficult to see how the new office will reconcile the competing mandates of poverty reduction and UK foreign policy interests, both at the global level but also in the field given the newly expanded roles of Ambassadors to manage ODA. To protect the poverty focus of UK aid, it is vital that ODA spending not only maintains the world-class transparency standard set by DFID, but indeed becomes more transparent to protect against accusations of mismanagement or underhand dealings.”
“With suggestions that the International Development Committee and Independent Commission for Aid Impact will soon be abolished, it is noteworthy that the UK government’s transparency targets will also soon expire with no obvious successors. Our UK Aid Transparency Review highlighted that seven out of ten UK aid spending government departments failed to meet these targets. The 2020 Aid Transparency Index shows us that when aid transparency is valued and institutionalised, huge strides forward can be made.”
Globally, the results of the 2020 Aid Transparency Index show a significant improvement in donors’ overall transparency compared to 2018. 11 donors are now in the ‘very good’ category, an increase of four from 2018. The number in ‘good’ increased by two, to 15. This means that over half of the 47 assessed donors are now ranked as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
The Index continues to drive behaviour towards greater transparency and openness among aid donors. The average score increased during the data collection process from 54.4 to 63.4.
Alex Tilley, who researched and authored the report, said:
“The progress that’s been made globally is commendable and serves to fill many of the gaps in the aid data landscape. However, through this research, and other initiatives at Publish What You Fund, we’re seeing that too often the transparency efforts of major agencies cease at the point of data publication. Increasingly we’re seeing a demand for data, and engagement around that data, from governments, CSOs, and policy makers in aid-recipient countries. We look forward to exploring this more and identifying those agencies who are using their data to engage with local stakeholders as a means of inclusive decision making and building trust in the international aid system.”