January 12, 2011Matthew Olivier
2010 saw some of the worst natural catastrophes. The devastating earthquake in Haiti. The extreme flooding in Pakistan. Events such as these garnered international support from governments and individuals as they donated money and provided aid to these countries through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), donors and other aid agencies. With the money raised, however, it also brought attention to the effectiveness of aid money. That is, how to ensure aid is being used where it is most needed without duplication of efforts by various and potentially competing donors.
The ideal way is for donors to be more transparent about how they are allocating and distributing aid funds. That is the goal of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and associated NGO, Publish What You Fund. Publish What You Fund is one of the most active participants in IATI.
The Publish What You Fund Aid Transparency Principles include:
Information on aid should be published proactively
- Information on aid should be comprehensive, timely, accessible and comparable
- Everyone can request and receive information on aid processes
- The right of access to information about aid should be promoted
Publish What You Fund advocates and lobbies for greater aid transparency. Publish What You Fund believes donors should publish their information on a regular basis in a standardised format that is comparable with other countries and accessible to all. A standard that is mappable, searchable, and useable.
Recently, Publish What You Fund released its 2010 Aid Transparency Assessment. You can play with the data, alter the visualisations, download the data, and view the presentation. The assessment demonstrates that aid information currently made available by donors is poor and that all donors still need to improve transparency.
The Publish What You Fund website also includes numerous PDFs on such topics as Why Aid Transparency Matters, and the Global Movement for Aid Transparency, Briefing Paper with ODI and IBP: Greater Aid Transparency: crucial for aid effectiveness, and more.
Improving aid transparency is an important first step. The next step is to track the aid money once it’s in-country. Governments need to know what aid is coming in so that they can budget accordingly. If aid becomes a non-budget line item, corruption and waste fast become options.
To improve recipient aid transparency, emerging-economy governments can use the FreeBalance Accountability Suite, a public financial management (PFM) system. Governments use FreeBalance to track aid, budget it and report on it creating an audit trail. Donors gain visibility into the effectiveness of their funds. Using FreeBalance, a government improves aid recipient transparency and increases accountability. This leads to good governance, a key goal to improving a country’s economy through aid.
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