Will the Global Partnership deliver on transparency?

I’m here in Mexico for the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which will review progress on the commitments made at Busan in December 2011, as well as those previously adopted at Accra and Paris. Two questions come immediately to mind: how does this process fit into the wider post-2015 development agenda discussions and where do we go from here?

One of the most significant commitments made at Busan was the pledge to “Implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation operation” with endorsers undertaking to fully implement this common standard by December 2015.

Data Revolution

Transparency is a key issue because good quality data on all of the resources available for reducing poverty is an essential step towards mobilising them. If the post-2015 development agenda is to succeed in achieving the goal of ending absolute poverty by 2030, it has to be based on a clear picture of where the resources are going to come from and how to monitor progress. Decision-makers at all levels also need to know who poor people are, where they live, and what policies will be most successful in lifting them above the $1.25 a day poverty line. In short the future development agenda needs to be underpinned by a ‘Data Revolution’ that:

  • Empowers people: dramatically improving access and use of data for all
  • Drives accountability: holding policymakers to account for how they spend and use public money
  • Results in better decisions: creating an unstoppable logic and public pressure for decisions informed by evidence

At this week’s High-Level Meeting in Mexico we will be engaging with all Global Partnership stakeholders to promote greater transparency of all resources for reducing poverty, as well as discussing what the Data Revolution means in practice.

Transparency for effective development cooperation

The transparency indicator – developed as part of the Global Partnership’s Monitoring Framework – seeks to measure progress in implementing the Busan common standard. The results of the pilot assessment, published in the recently released Global Partnership Monitoring Report, make for sobering reading: the majority of donors are not yet providing timely, comprehensive and forward-looking data on their development cooperation.

So why does this matter? It matters because without this information, partner country governments can’t plan and manage development cooperation resources effectively, and incorporate this information in their national budgets. As Monica Asuna of the National Treasury, Kenya said today at the Mexico workshop to review progress to date: with three months to go to the start of their budget year, they have visibility on just 23% of external resources for next year. And without open access to high-quality information, parliamentarians, civil society organisations and citizens cannot hold their governments to account for their use of these resources.

Monitoring transparency through the Global Partnership and IATI

The conclusions of the Global Partnership Monitoring Report echo the findings of a recent survey of Aid Management Systems conducted by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), for which Development Initiatives is technical lead. The survey confirms that while 61% of respondents say they need data from donors to be published on a monthly basis, only 6% of their donors currently provide that. Three-fifths (59%) of respondents say that they have not got the information they need to support national budget preparation, citing the main reason as the lack of timely, accurate, forward-looking data.

Best practice providers

The good news is that three providers are already doing this: the UK, Netherlands and Sweden, demonstrating that it is technically possible. Both the UK and the Netherlands are already publishing monthly data via IATI, and nine providers are publishing forward-looking data at activity level via IATI or the OECD DAC Forward-Spending Survey. The challenge this week at Mexico is to agree concrete actions that will help the rest match the best: we need all Busan endorsers to accelerate progress towards meeting their transparency commitments. We also need to see action from other Global Partnership members – South-South cooperation providers, civil society organisations and private sector actors – to increase the transparency of their development cooperation along similar lines. And we need action to support greater use of data at country level, including through improving data quality and building the capacity of data managers and users.

The Global Partnership has the potential to be part of the ‘how’ of the post-2105 development agenda. Delivering on its own commitments on transparency would be a good way to start.