Welcome to the latest monthly roundup of news from the world of aid and development transparency.
Taking stock of the 2X Challenge: The transparency of gender lens investments
Last week, the gender lens investing community gathered in Luxembourg for the 2X Global annual members meeting – in greater numbers than ever before. Since 2018 the 2X Challenge has mobilised $27.7bn for women and girls. As 2X Global prepares to expand and launch a certification scheme, we’ve taken stock of 2X investments to assess what development finance institutions (DFIs) are disclosing and the transparency of gender lens investing.
We found big gaps in the information available. The lack of standardised disaggregated information makes it almost impossible to get the granular insights that are needed to measure the value, impact, and progress of gender lens investing. In a new research paper we propose 2X Global improves disclosure by making investments publicly accessible via a centralised reporting platform. Much of this information is already collected by DFIs. Their consent to publish it would be a significant step forward for the transparency of gender lens investing.
A new frontier in aid transparency – private sector contractors
Publish What You Fund has been analysing the transparency of private aid contractors. These organisations handle billions of dollars of aid money, yet the largest players are almost completely un-transparent. The lack of transparency limits our ability to hold private contractors to account, and to understand and analyse international aid flows. We need transparency of actors down the delivery chain to build a complete picture of aid delivery.
Alex Tilley has taken a deep dive into the transparency of the largest contractors of the US and UK, Chemonics and Adam Smith International, and struggled to follow the money. He argues that private aid contractors should meet international standards for aid transparency as they are channelling taxpayer funds with a mandate to benefit citizens in low-income countries. The full analysis includes a series of policy recommendations for both donors and contractors.
Exploring IATI data through publisher portals
In their latest blog, Elma Jenkins and Rolf Kleef explore 30 aid data portals – from high-level overviews to detailed organisation-specific data. They delve into the world of development data, discuss routes to accessing International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) data and what we look for in an accessible publisher portal.
Introducing our new trustees
We are delighted to welcome three new trustees to the board of Publish What You Fund. Michael Jarvis, Karolina Olofsson and Jenna Slotin bring a wealth of experiences and specialisms in governance and democracy, accountability and participation, policy and research, data and programme design, aid effectiveness and transparency. Jenna, Karolina and Michael have vision and energy that will complement the skills and passion of our existing board members. They will help to lead the future direction of Publish What You Fund and ensure we remain a well-run, transparent organisation, focused on the issues that matter.
Here’s a quick roundup of other news and publications we’ve been reading over the last few weeks:
The Center for Global Development (CGD) has released the Commitment to Development Index 2023, the 20th edition of the index which measures 40 countries on eight policy areas. Sweden once again tops the ranking, followed by Germany and Norway. It finds Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has challenged the development focus of many countries. Russia comes last on the Index, the US comes in 26th place after South Africa, the highest-ranking BRICS country, while China nears the bottom in 36th place.
This report from the Coalition for Human Rights in Development presents evidence that public development banks (PDBs) are actually exacerbating the problems they claim to solve. Drafted by over 100 civil society activists, the report argues that the push towards privatisation, the extractivist and top-down approach, and the limitations of PDBs’ social and environmental safeguards are often deepening inequalities, leading to violations, fuelling climate change, and increasing debt.
A new report from the International Development Committee (IDC) Concludes that the UK’s development finance institution, British International Investment (BII), has made investments which may have harmed society or the environment, and which lack a poverty focus. It calls for governance changes, and also finds that BII isn’t transparent enough. The IDC recommends that “BII should use Publish What You Fund’s DFI Transparency Index as a roadmap to increase the transparency of its operations and public disclosures”. We’re pleased to see the inclusion of this recommendation. Without transparency, we can’t hold BII to account or know if future investments are in line with the UK’s climate and development goals.
This blog from the Accountability Research Center takes an open government lens to localization and examines US Agency for International Development (USAID) spending in Colombia. The authors argue that user-centred access to information is key to informing locally led development and holding USAID accountable for its good intentions.
Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) has launched a governance funding dashboard, using OECD data from 2019 – 2021 to share funding trends for transparency, participation, and accountability and good governance issues across the globe. This blog provides a how to guide to explore the dashboard.
A new report from Harm Reduction International uses data from the OECD Creditor Reporting System to identify more than US$930m of aid spent on “narcotics control” projects between 2012-2021. Using project-level data, it finds some official development assistance (ODA) has supported undercover policing, “intelligence-led profiling”, and efforts to increase arrests and prosecutions for drug-related offences. The authors call on governments and donors to divest from punitive and prohibitionist drug control regimes which undermine their other health and human rights commitments, and invest in programmes which prioritise community, health and justice.
The Blended Finance Taskforce, Global Partnership for Social Accountability and TAI Have released the “Better Accountability, Better Finance” consultation paper. It calls for stronger accountability and transparency in climate finance to unlock the trillions of dollars needed to help the world achieve climate-positive growth and development goals. It says “green accountability” could save more than US$100bn a year across public climate finance flows and avoid 3GT of annual greenhouse gas emissions, by improving the current system in which some 75% of committed funds remain unspent or undeployed.
Urgewald, a campaign group that tracks global fossil fuel finance, has found that the World Bank supplied about US$3.7bn in trade finance in 2022 that was likely to have ended up funding oil and gas developments, despite the bank’s claims of alignment with the Paris climate agreement. As this Guardian article reports, the author of the research is calling for reform of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC), to make such transactions more transparent and to exclude funding for fossil fuels from its lending. IFC said that the research ‘grossly overstates’ its support for fossil fuels.
This story in ABC News describes why Australian aid is being criticised by a former Australian Minister and other specialists for a lack of focus on understanding impact, on not being locally led and for low levels of transparency.
Bond has analysed the latest UK figures on ODA spending. In 2022, the UK spent 0.51% of gross national income (GNI) on ODA, a total of £12.8bn, and an increase of £1.4bn compared to 2021. However, the dramatic increase in UK aid supporting refugees in the UK – to £3.7bn – in 2022 means that in reality aid spending in low- and middle-income countries fell by £1.3bn. Bond highlights that spend in Africa, to low-income countries and through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) have all hit major lows.
New research from CARE has found that 93% of the climate finance reported by wealthy countries between 2011 and 2020 was taken directly from development aid. This is despite committing to provide US$100bn of ‘new and additional’ climate finance each year. The research considers the amount of climate finance which has been provided on top of the international commitment to provide 0.7% of GNI as ODA.
A new ActionAid report looks at the role played by major international banks in financing fossil fuels and industrial agriculture in the global south. It also examines the current role of public financing in supporting fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, and how public finance could instead support a transition towards a more sustainable future based on renewable energy and agroecology.
Cordaid, a global health NGO, has published a new interactive tool to track Dutch global health financing and policymaking based on data published to IATI. The new tool allows users to track and compare Dutch global health funding between 2018 and 2023.
This CGD article looks into the instruments and approaches used by the UK to mobilise development and climate finance. It includes a call for the UK to be more transparent about its use of guarantees.