China remains stuck at the bottom of the pack among major donors in making foreign aid information accessible, according to the latest edition of a global index on aid transparency.
China placed last — 68th — on the 2014 Aid Transparency Index, released by Publish What You Fund, the U.K. watchdog. And just like last year, it garnered a score of 2.2 percent based on its commitment to transparency and publication of organization- and activity-level data.
That result was not surprising. China has virtually shunned participation in the aid transparency movement: It is not a signatory to International Aid Transparency Initiative and while it took part in the 2011 Busan high-level forum on aid effectiveness, it was markedly absent at the follow-up meeting held earlier this year in Mexico City.
“China doesn't engage with us on the survey,” Nicole Valentinuzzi, campaigns and communications manager at Publish What You Fund, told Devex. “And it just continues to be incredibly hard to find meaningful information about China's aid activities.”
In China, among other countries, discussions about foreign aid are sensitive because the term alone is often seen as synonymous to handouts to other countries and therefore contradictory to the principles of mutual benefit under south-south cooperation, and improper because of continuing needs at home. Beyond the occasional white paper and news releases, details on Chinese foreign are pretty scarce.
Despite its findings, Publish What You Fund will not be intensifying its advocacy toward China in the near future; rather it would focus on those that have a better chance of making the 2015 deadline to publish information to a common, open standard.
That doesn’t mean the watchdog group is giving up on the emerging donor.
“It's not to say we'll never do anything there, but in terms of having to prioritize which donors we think we can get over the line, it's a much heavier lift for China still,” Valentinuzzi said.
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Overall, the 2014 ATI suggests progress among many donors in their efforts to make good on their pledges to improve transparency. This year, the U.N. Development Program climbed from fourth place to the top spot and the U.K. Department for International Development is up one spot, ranking second.
In its report, Publish What You Fund recommends sharing of best practice such as the “publish once, use often” approach by the Netherlands.
Publish What You Fund is partnering with organizations both in donor and recipient countries to hold donors to account for their transparency commitments. It launched the Road to 2015 campaign in July, with a further aim of garnering support toward integrating transparency and open data in the post-2015 development agenda.
“There's still a lot more work for us to do but we're definitely pleased how far the aid transparency movement has come,” Valentinuzzi told Devex. “We're definitely hopeful; we expect to see big changes in the year ahead and we will be there pushing donors every step of the way.”
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