Supporting greater transparency of humanitarian financing
At the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 a number of donor governments, multilaterals, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) agreed the Grand Bargain, which included a set of proposals and commitments to get more means into the hands of people in need and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action.
Greater transparency was identified as a prerequisite for fulfilling the Grand Bargain’s transformative agenda. A lack of transparency on how humanitarian financing is being allocated and spent impairs the planning coordination and delivery of assistance. There are gaps and inconsistencies in the information available for analysis. For example, there is currently no way of viewing up-to-date information on the full range of international resources available in a given context, or the ability to see financial flows from the donor to crisis-affected people.
Data from different sources is often not compatible, which limits the ability to join up and compare data to create a richer picture of the humanitarian financing landscape. There are also system-wide inefficiencies resulting from organisations reporting to different standards and platforms, not reporting at all, or providing manual reporting, which requires significant review and oversight.
Grand Bargain signatories agreed a series of commitments to make progress towards greater transparency based on the publication and use of open, comparable and standardised data about their humanitarian activities. They identified the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) as the basis for a common standard.
Once data is published in an open and comparable format it can be exchanged, connected and used by many different stakeholders much faster than ever before. It can also be visualised and shared through widely used platforms in the humanitarian sector such as UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service and the European Commission’s European Disaster Response Information System for EU Member States to enable decision-makers to take data-informed decisions.
The purpose of our work
By demonstrating how IATI data is helping inform decision-making in humanitarian policy and practice, and by improving its accessibility, DI’s aim is to help ensure that timely, transparent, harmonised and open high-quality data on humanitarian activities is being published to IATI and used to improve operational effectiveness and deliver better results.
DI is supporting the Grand Bargain transparency workstream and co-conveners in three main areas: data publication, data use, and monitoring and learning. Our key goals are:
- Increase awareness of IATI among Grand Bargain signatories and the humanitarian community.
- Support signatories in publishing more useable humanitarian data as a precondition to better data use.
- Enhance understanding of IATI data uses and user needs (including in-country actors) among Grand Bargain signatories and the humanitarian community.
- Support signatories to access and use IATI data directly and/or via IATI-compatible tools and platforms.
Monitoring and learning
- Ensure that Grand Bargain signatories, the transparency workstream and the humanitarian community have a clear approach to monitoring progress on the transparency commitments and a vision for humanitarian transparency beyond the Grand Bargain.
We have made great progress in raising awareness, providing technical support, inputting into methodology and tools, and directly engaging with key stakeholders and processes. Through close consultation with the co-conveners of the Grand Bargain transparency workstream we have also responded to the changing environment in which the project has operated, at times shifting our focus to support newly identified needs, and undertaken additional activity beyond that envisaged within the project proposal and addendum phase.
Examples of work we undertook that contributed to success so far are a global survey that identified the challenges and incentives for organisations to publish high-quality data to IATI on their humanitarian activities. This led to improvements in the IATI Standard to include more humanitarian elements as part of an upgrade, as well as new guidance and technical support to Grand Bargain signatories and the wider humanitarian community.
As part of our efforts we also developed a Grand Bargain Transparency Dashboard. Signatories have used the dashboard as a means to advocate for increased resourcing within their organisations and to identify and address data quality issues. It has also enabled the transparency workstream and the humanitarian community as a whole to track progress on the transparency commitments as part of the Grand Bargain’s annual independent monitoring process. An upcoming revised and simplified dashboard will enable signatories, the transparency workstream and others to monitor the usability of the data that organisations are publishing and to promote continued progress on data publication.
There has been a significant increase in the number of Grand Bargain signatory organisations – including donors, UN agencies and international NGOs – that are publishing open data on their humanitarian financing.
As our May 2019 progress update shows, 90% of signatories (or their affiliates) that publish open data to IATI include some data on their humanitarian activities, and 29% provide more granular data such as information on Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) or clusters. This is a huge achievement when the baseline in June 2017 was that 84% of Grand Bargain signatories (or their affiliates) published data on their humanitarian activities and of these 0% provided more granular data.
The next phase of DI’s work with the transparency workstream will focus on data use. We will ensure that signatories and the wider humanitarian community are aware of the published data’s actual and potential uses by developing a series of prototypes in the areas of cash programming, localisation, earmarking and the humanitarian–development nexus, and sharing good practice and data use examples. We will also act as a conduit between data service providers and publishers to deliver data services that users want. We will be assisting the co-convenors and signatories to articulate a vision for the future of transparency and, as part of that, IATI’s contribution to the evolving humanitarian data ecosystem.