In aid transparency, joining IATI is 'not enough'

Men prepare humanitarian aid from Oxfam to be sent to Somalia. Oxfam GB is one of the international organizations that have signed the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Photo by: Alun McDonald / Oxfam / CC BY

Often, the issue in development is not about who commits, but how and when those pledges will translate into action.

The same holds true in aid transparency. Twenty-eight donors have signed up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative and 22 countries have “endorsed” it. But to date, only seven of the 25 publishers on the IATI registry are donor countries.

At the first high-level conference of the Open Government Partnership, which was held in Brasilia this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned the United States being part of the IATI. Clinton enumerated several steps the United States has taken toward transparency, including the creation of several websites where people can view information on regulations and send petitions directly to the White House.

Karin Christiansen, founder of Publish What You Fund, said in an emailed statement to Devex that the United States’ move is a step in the right direction. And surely, information on aid exists “somewhere, in some format.” But the question is, is it in a format useful to policymakers, recipient countries and the public?

Christiansen said it will be possible for donors to answer the question on how and where aid is being spent by joining the IATI, but “that is not enough.”

Donors, such as the United States, need to ensure that published information is comparable, useful and timely. She said by following these three principles, donors can make better decisions about how they spend their resources. It will reduce waste — in time and money — and the duplication of effort. In addition, it will lessen agencies’ risk of undermining each other’s work.

Christiansen said the United States “can and should lead” on aid transparency. She said a transparent and accountable government with empowered citizens requires the crucial combination of political and technical leadership.

Read more:

Read more aid effectiveness news and development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.