Humanitarian actors have made commendable progress against the Grand Bargain transparency commitments. Three prominent aid organisations of the 59 donors and humanitarian aid organisations who have signed the agreement – the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – have started publishing data on their spending to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) in the last six months. They join the ranks of Grand Bargain signatories who are making good on the transparency commitment, which comprises one of the ten commitment areas that make up the Grand Bargain as a whole. But publishing data is only one part of the transparency commitment. If decision-making, accountability and learning are going to be better informed by data, that data needs to be accessible and usable. This is where efforts now need to be focused.
As at 2 January 2019:
- 47 of 59 (80%) Grand Bargain signatories – or one or more of their affiliates or members – were publishing open data via IATI
- over 90% of those publishing were including some data on their humanitarian activities
- over 83% of those publishing are currently using v2.02 (which allows publishers to flag humanitarian activities, include GLIDEnumbers and to report on funding for humanitarian response plans or clusters) or v2.03 (which has the same functionalities as mentioned above for v2.02, and also allows for reporting on pledges as well as earmarking and cash). This could rise to 89% in the next six months as Canada, the Netherlands and the UK are considering upgrades to v2.03.
Full details can be seen in our overview graphic of progress so far.
This is good news, as it means organisations are making steps towards fulfilling their Grand Bargain commitments. It should also make a greater quantity of open data available for analysis, monitoring and decision-making. There is of course room for further growth with more signatory members and affiliates starting to publish, and a growing number of donors (Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, for example) making IATI publication a condition of funding. As more Grand Bargain signatories, members and affiliates publish via the IATI registry the volume of data available for use will increase.
However, equally important – and more pressing at this stage – is the need to ensure that the humanitarian data published is usable, useful and accessible. If it isn’t, the chances of it being taken up by users is low, and the chance of it having meaningful impact is even lower.
Making standardised data – data that uses the same format and definitions – more readily available should help reduce not only the reporting burden on the publisher – who can publish once for multiple users and uses – but also the collection, cleaning, curation and research burden on the user. How much of an impact this approach would have in practice is being put to the test via the IATI-FTS pilot, a collaboration with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service (FTS), the Centre for Humanitarian Data and five Grand Bargain signatories. All eyes are on this pilot – which has just seen the successful import of the first batch of data from the US Agency for International Development – to gauge the benefits for all involved, and the benefits that might accrue for the end user, such as quality and timeliness of the curated data. In particular, we are keen to see if the data that is readily available from the IATI registry can help FTS in its quest to speed up the process of collation and curation in order to focus resources on analysis – and if pilot participants find that this same data does indeed serve multiple purposes.
The uptake and use of data published via IATI will depend on its usability, usefulness and accessibility. How might the data support decision-makers? How might it help with policy, programming, monitoring, research, evaluation or advocacy objectives? How does it complement existing data, platforms and tools? What are the barriers to use? The Development Initiatives (DI) team is working to support the transparency workstream co-convenors – the Netherlands and the World Bank – with a view to raising awareness of IATI’s potential within the evolving humanitarian and data landscapes, as well as to gauging current perceptions and actual use. As an essential first step, we are conducting an online survey, the results of which will inform the 2019 Grand Bargain independent annual report. Open for responses until 22 March, the survey is aimed primarily at Grand Bargain signatories – but other stakeholders are also welcome to participate, and we are happy to receive more than one response per organisation. Alongside this, and in consultation with other Grand Bargain workstreams, we are also prototyping ‘windows’ onto the IATI data to show what’s available and what might be possible if more, and more usable, data was being published. We will be sharing progress and findings throughout the year – including at the transparency workstream workshop in May, which aims to convene Grand Bargain and IATI stakeholders.
If you’d like to be involved in our work, share experiences or examples of data use, or ask any questions about the transparency workstream, contact DI’s Senior Policy & Engagement Advisor Angus Urquhart.