Driving forward IATI in Africa

Since the launch of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) as a common standard for publishing aid and development data, we at Development Initiatives (DI) and others have been encouraging CSOs/NGOs to publish their data to the standard. This, we believe, would be a major step to better, more effective and transparent use of aid and, ultimately, other resources.

There are many benefits for CSOs/NGOs who publish to IATI, as Claudia Schwegmann laid out in a great blog earlier this year. However, many of them remain unaware or simply lack the capacity to publish to IATI.

First IATI NGO training in Africa

steve iati training

With ICL in the technical training session

DI has been working to support the implementation of IATI directly with publishers in Africa, as Technical Lead for IATI. We are now paying special attention to the needs of national level CSOs/NGOs who want to work with us to publish to IATI. Towards this, we held one day IATI training for I Choose Life Africa in August 2013 in Nairobi. This was a first in two ways; not only was it the first IATI training conducted by our Africa Hub team in Africa, but the trainee organisation, I Choose Life Africa, are on track to become one of the first ten African NGOs* to publish to the IATI standard: a milestone they aim to achieve before the end of the year.

The highly interactive training was structured into background sessions and then the practicalities of compliance, with a special emphasis on implementation. We wanted our partners to understand the ‘why’ of IATI, highlighting that each new publisher becomes part of an important global initiative and we provided the context and history leading up to IATI being formulated. As I Choose Life are a Girls Education Challenge grantee, they were also keen to understand DFID’s role in the standard and its development.

In the afternoon, focus shifted to the practicalities of compliance and the implementation schedule. Participants tested Aidstream, a tool developed by our Nepalese partners, Young Innovations, which is designed to ease the publishing process for small organisations and provided details of how they could use the CSV conversion tool developed by DI.

Challenges and Practical Solutions

For me the most interesting part of the training was the group discussion to consider the question, “What are the challenges you foresee in implementing IATI in-house and how can you overcome them?”

The participants highlighted the following challenges:

  • Putting theory into practice
  • Identifying what is confidential information before publishing
  • Buy-in from senior management (particularly on publishing non-DFID funded programmes)
  • Identifying specific roles for individuals within the organisation during implementation
  • Infrastructure barriers (e.g. IT)

Solutions offered revolved around two elements:

  • Accountability: recognising that it is important to publish, and that there are direct transparency and accountability benefits.
  • Communication: IATI being a global standard, work will be visible to a global audience and this will make it easier for donors to track the use of resources.

The I Choose Life Africa team is proud that their organisation will be among the first NGOs in Africa to publish to IATI. They want to demonstrate to others that it can be done. We are working closely with them to achieve this challenging but critical milestone by year end.

*The first 8 to publish were:

  1. ActionAid International (South Africa, March 2013)
  2. Assocciation for Reproductive & Family Health (Nigeria, June 2013)
  3. Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) (Malawi, Sept 2013)
  4. Gender Links (South Africa, March 2013)
  5. Heifer International (South Africa, Sept 2013)
  6. Medical Research Centre (Sierra Leone, Sept 2013)
  7. Send a Cow Uganda (Uganda, Sept 2013)
  8. Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Aids Office (South Africa, Sept 2013)