The International Aid Transparency Initiative – We’ve come a long way in 15 years
Next week, in Copenhagen, government representatives, NGOs, donors, development banks and the private sector will come together for the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Members’ Assembly. During the event Members will vote for a new consortium to run the Initiative for the next five years. We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the growth of IATI, and highlight the burgeoning number of examples of stakeholders using IATI data for research, policy insights and ultimately to make development more effective.
Publish What You Fund and IATI have a long history of collaboration, and we’re very pleased that IATI is providing funding for the 2024 Aid Transparency Index. This gives us the opportunity to support IATI’s continued efforts to improve data quality across the IATI community. The Aid Transparency Index maintains pressure and vigilance on the world’s leading aid and development agencies – essential if progress on aid transparency is to continue. As the examples below show, maintaining and enhancing the quality of the vast, and precious, aid data set, brings benefits to a wide range of groups.
Who is using IATI data and why?
Aid transparency can help a diverse range of stakeholders to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of aid. As the aid transparency movement matures, we’re seeing a variety of examples where the availability of up-to-date and comprehensive aid data is supporting the delivery of better aid. The IATI Secretariat has been core to this evolution – investing in tools and training to improve data quality and its accessibility. Having a more complete data set, and more and better tools to access the data, is enabling more people to use and analyse the data to inform policy and funding decisions. Here are some of the examples which we’ve seen of late:
Better alignment with recipient governments’ plans
- The number of country governments systematically using IATI data for decision-making has increased to six (Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, and Liberia). In 2022 Liberia’s Deputy Minister for Finance and Development Planning spoke about the Liberian Project Dashboard and the importance of aligning international aid flows with national priorities. Also in 2022, government officials from Chad, Madagascar and Lesotho highlighted their efforts to use IATI data to understand aid flows and align them with their national resources.
More capable civil society
- An effective civil society can provide useful feedback to aid agencies and represent the interests of aid affected communities. Aid transparency data is being used in the UK to hold the government to account where aid cuts were happening without being made public. Globally aid data is being used to monitor and hold donors accountable for their promises and contributions to nutrition funding.
- In Nigeria the Follow the Money campaign has been using aid data to monitor the implementation of aid programmes. Meanwhile IATI data has recently been used for media investigations including a piece by CNN on funding to West Africa.
- INGOs and NGOs are using global aid data to identify potential funders and analyse sector investments.
Faster and deeper research and learning
- Research organisations are using IATI data to answer major policy questions. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s annual global health financing reports have been using IATI data since 2020. The report provides estimates of spending on health, development assistance for health, and projections of future health spending and shows patterns between income groups and regions over time, highlights variations between countries, and helps identify where more resources are needed most.
- IATI data lends itself to analysis relating to immediate crises and has been used for research relating to COVID funding, including specific work by Georgetown University on mental health funding throughout the COVID period) as well as analysis relating to the crisis response and aid diversion relating to the war in Ukraine.
- Researchers working on the “Development consultants and contractors: for-profit companies in the changing world of ‘Aidland’” project based at Cambridge University have been using IATI data to help trace aid flows to private sector implementers and triangulating this with open contract data to build a picture of the role contractors play in UK aid delivery.
- Through our own in-depth research, we have demonstrated what is possible using the global aid dataset. See for example Publish What You Fund’s research on localisation, climate finance, and Women’s Economic Empowerment
Increasingly efficient and effective aid agencies
- As aid and development agencies have developed their own data portals the cost of responding to internal and external enquiries has significantly reduced. Examples include the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s DevTracker, US Agency for International Development’s ForeignAssistance.gov, the European Commission’s EU Aid Explorer, and Sweden’s Openaid.se portal.
- A variety of aid agencies report that the efforts to be fully transparent have a positive ripple effect across their organisation. In 2022 Gavi spoke about how their transparency efforts have helped them make their internal information management processes and systems stronger.
IATI data is also becoming more useful – and more usable – thanks to an increasing number of third party data visualisation and analysis platforms, which allow stakeholders to access, manipulate and interpret vast data sets. Examples include D-Portal, the Country Development Finance Data downloader, the OCHA COVID-19 dashboard and AIDA. Thematic dashboards, driven by IATI data, are also emerging including the livestock data portal. In addition, the opportunities for research and analysis of data are increasing as new approaches emerge, including methodologies to merge IATI and OECD DAC CRS data or to provide real time insight into aid spending.
We’re looking forward to the Members’’ Assembly and to hearing fresh perspectives from across the IATI community. We hope the insights we’ve gained from using IATI data, and our work on the Aid Transparency Index, will be a valuable part of the ecosystem needed to drive the visibility and usefulness of the global dataset. After 15 years of IATI, it has never looked better. We stand ready to help ensure it stays that way.