Aid transparency comes of age
On 13th July we launched the 2022 edition of the Aid Transparency Index. This was the 10th anniversary of the Index, and it marked a special moment. For the first time we’re witnessing data use examples flourishing. We’re seeing a variety of stakeholders, both locally and globally, using open aid data for research, programme design and engagement.
For the launch event, hosted by the Directorate General for International Partnerships at the European Commission, we assembled a panel of representatives from partner governments, aid agencies, global research institutions and CSOs to share their experience of how the global aid data set is adding value to their operations.
The panel was moderated by Nadia Daar, Director of Oxfam’s Washington DC Office, who opened the discussion by sharing her reflections on being at the launch of the first Index back in 2012. Nadia reminded us that for advocates, tools like the Index are extremely important to apply external pressure and keep standards high.
Next up was Augustus Flomo, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning in Liberia. Augustus shared the context in Liberia, which remains a highly aid dependent country, and explained his experience using aid data to get to grips with who was funding what, in which sectors, in his country. Augustus went on to share how the data not only helped him plan Liberia’s public expenditure better, but also how the data provides a basis of information on which he can meet with donor representatives and collaboratively engage around Liberia’s development priorities.
To offer a different perspective, we were joined by Laura Boehner, Director of Knowledge Management and Technology Services at Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance. Laura started with a dose of realism warning that there is a delicate balance between confidentiality and transparency but that she is confident that there are easy ways to address the balance. Laura then also described how Gavi has put rigorous processes in place to publish their activity data on a monthly basis and that they are encouraging their local partners to also publish their data. It was clear from the discussion the extent to which Gavi’s efforts put the organisation in a strong position to then manage the complex and fast moving COVAX initiative. Laura explained that “COVAX was unprecedented, and we knew we had to embed transparency from the very beginning as we wanted to show how the money was being spent with equity.”
We were then joined by Angela Micah, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. IHME’s flagship global health financing report, produced annually, has for the first time used data published to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard as part of their analysis. Angela explained “IHME looks at funding to global health in detail in lower income countries to identify trends and funding levels to influence policies, increase accountability and better use of resources. Maybe five years ago when I last looked at the IATI data set we needed more project detail, and it wasn’t very complete. But this time we realised we had more information that felt more comprehensive and better quality. We felt more confident using the data.” Given that IATI data is often more up to date than other aid data sets the team at IHME also found it particularly useful for tracking the fast-moving Covid response.
Last but not least was Adam Sturesson, a Systems Manager at Sida. Adam explained just how much time Sida had invested in their data and systems to integrate the IATI open data standard into everything they do. Adam said that as a result they can now quickly fix quality issues and feel confident in their data. The initial motivation for all of this investment was the desire to be accountable to Swedish citizens. Adam explained that Sweden publishes all their aid data on their open data website as a way for Swedish taxpayers to see where their money goes. But the use case goes far wider than that with internal stakeholders including project officers and other government departments also relying on the same data to inform their decisions and enable their work.
The panel discussion closed with a round of questions from the audience, and a final comment from our Moderator Nadia reminding us that transparency is not the end in itself. It is about how the data is used, and how we can use it to improve our work.
You can watch a recording of the launch of the 2022 Aid Transparency Index here.
You can catch up on four blogs detailing how global aid data is being used in different contexts: