Since the release of the 2013 Aid Transparency Index (ATI), there has been steady progress by development actors publishing information to the IATI Standard. At the time of writing, over 280 organisations are publishing information to the IATI Registry and all IATI information fields are being used. This multi-stakeholder initiative has demonstrated its value by bringing together a diversity of providers including governments, development funds, climate funds, private foundations, multilaterals and NGOs to publish their information in an open, accessible format that anyone can freely access, use and re-use. There is also a move towards turning raw data into easy-to-understand visualisations via open data portals, making the information more meaningful for users. New portals, driven by IATI data, have been launched by several organisations including Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and UN. Yet more remains to be done, particularly by some of the large and influential providers that are currently off track with delivering their commitments and improving the quality of the information being published. Of the 68 organisations included in the 2014 Index, 35 are publishing some current information to IATI – but as the findings demonstrate, the quality and usefulness of the information is mixed.
Several important international development events have also taken place since the publication of the 2013 ATI. In April 2014, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) held its first High Level Meeting in Mexico, with the main objective of reviewing progress since Busan. Donors reaffirmed their past commitments on aid transparency at this meeting. The first Global Monitoring Report was also released in Mexico, providing a review of progress on the commitments and actions agreed in Busan. The report notes that the development provider community “…needs to raise its collective level of ambition and redouble efforts if it is to publish by 2015 timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on development co-operation resources.” It calls for urgent action to enhance the publication of information, report more frequently using data that is less than six months old, and to overcome systems and process-related hurdles to providing information on all agreed common standard data fields.
The UN post-2015 Development Agenda has framed the majority of international development conversations over the past 12 months. In July, the UN Economic and Social Council convened a new session of the biennial Development Cooperation Forum. The main objectives of the meeting were to discuss ideas for how a renewed global partnership for development beyond 2015 would work in practice; identify ways for enhancing national and global accountability; and advance policy dialogue with south-south providers. The need for mutual accountability and useable information were highlighted at the meeting, emphasising their importance as building blocks for a robust monitoring and accountability framework in a post-2015 context.
Also in July, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) concluded its negotiations, proposing a total of 17 goals, each with a separate set of targets. These proposed goals will be a key input for defining a new set of global development priorities after 2015. In addition, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) published its report in August 2014. The report specifically lists transparency and accountability of financing as a principle of its strategic approach. It also references the “data revolution”, recognising the importance of standards and comprehensive, comparable data as the basis for improved global governance and sustainable development. This report will also feed into negotiations around the new goals, due to be agreed at the UN post-2015 Summit in September 2015.
A common theme runs through these processes: that there is a need to improve existing monitoring frameworks and the data underpinning them. As the development community prepares itself for the post-2015 world and new commitments and goals are agreed, it is important to assess progress to date, particularly on the extent to which existing commitments have or have not been delivered. The ATI results clearly demonstrate that there is still unfinished business as far as aid transparency is concerned.