2015 was an important year for international development, with governments agreeing to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next fifteen years. It was also a critical year for aid transparency. Back in 2011, leading donors committed in Busan to make their aid transparent by the end of 2015.
The 2016 Aid Transparency Index demonstrates whether that commitment has been met. Five years after the first Aid Transparency Index, and five years after the Busan commitment, it shows us how transparent major donors are as we begin the first year of the implementation of the SDGs.
The results find that ten donors of varied types and sizes, accounting for 25% of total aid, have met the commitment to aid transparency made in Busan. Over half of the organisations included in the 2016 Index publish data to the IATI Registry at least quarterly. However, most of the organisations covered fall into the lowest three categories, scoring below 60% and demonstrating that the publication of timely, comparable and disaggregated information about their development projects to the IATI Registry is far from complete. The Index also finds that over half of the organisations included do not publish budget information for the next one to three years – a key demand of partner countries.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) tops the Index for the second time with an excellent score of 93.3%, the only organisation to score above 90%. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is placed second, performing well once again, and UNICEF enters the ‘very good’ category for the first time, jumping into third place.
The ‘very good’ category also includes the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID), the Global Fund, the World Bank-International Development Association (WB-IDA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Asian Development Bank (AsDB), the government of Sweden and the African Development Bank (AfDB). These donors should be commended for their efforts in dramatically improving the timeliness and the comprehensiveness of their aid information since 2011.
At the other end of the scale, some important donors are performing poorly. France, Italy and Japan have agencies in a group of twelve donors in the ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a new addition in 2016, and China come last in the Index ranking. The largest number of donors is grouped under the ‘fair’ category, including some of the most important ones as categorised by aid budget such as USAID and Japan-JICA. Many of these donors are well established and have the structures in place to perform better.
Based on these findings, the report recommends that all publishers should recognise the right to information enshrined in the SDGs. Publishers should improve the quality and comprehensiveness of their data to provide a full picture of all development flows. This should be implemented along with strategies to realise the full potential of their data, using the IATI Standard as an opportunity to strengthen management systems, communication or serve accountability purposes better. Governments and civil society should work together to fill the gaps and advance open data and transparency in the development sector worldwide.