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  • Global Challenges

    Workshop: Picking the lock: Aid transparency, budget transparency and the MDGs

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    This workshop explores two key questions:
    • Why aid and budget transparency matter, and how they relate to each other
    • Ways to improve the accessibility and availability of information though a) technology, communication platforms and data visualisation; b) citizen participation; and c) monitoring.

    Aid transparency and budget transparency are preconditions for more effective spending and the empowerment of people in many of the poorest countries in the world in the decisions that affect their lives. Without information on donor aid, recipient countries’ budgets and how they relate to each other, it is impossible for accountability on how money is spent or when there has been mismanagement and corruption – let alone the space for accountability on how resources should be spent.

    While greater transparency alone will not result in more effective aid, better governance or enhanced development outcomes in recipient countries, it is fundamental to their success. For anti-corruption, better governance and greater development effectiveness, the aid information disclosed needs to be comprehensive, timely and comparable to recipient countries’ own efforts. Both budget and aid information also need to be available and accessible to the wide range of stakeholders and users – civil society organisations, the media and everyday citizens.

    Aid transparency linked to budget transparency is a necessary condition for sustained, country-led development to emerge and for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the set of development goals that more than 189 world leaders have pledged to reach by 2015.

    The momentum around transparent aid has been used by governments and civil society to launch related initiatives on the topic. The British and Dutch governments joined forces to launch the International Aid Transparency Initiative ( IATI) which aims to set a minimum standard for how, when and what types of aid data is reported. 18 donors (multilaterals, bilaterals and foundations) have since signed up to the initiative and 13 recipient governments have endorsed it. The civil society campaign for aid transparency, Publish What You Fund was launch in Accra in 2008 and focuses particularly on aid transparency and the links to accountability in aid recipient countries.

    Unlocking the link between aid and budget transparency and a country’s development is about understanding the role that information can play in improving the quality of budgetary decisions and accountability, which is particularly acute in aid dependent countries. Inversely, it is many of these same countries that confront some of the gravest development challenges and have seen stalled progress on the MDGs. Moreover, analysis suggests that there is negative correlation between aid dependency and budget transparency (Ramkumar and de Renzio, 2009).

    As practice has shown, budget transparency allows the creation of a policy making cycle that is accountable to parliaments and citizens – and focused on the development of a country. This panel hopes to bring all these strands together by presenting practical examples of how this can be done.

    Moderator: Gregory Adams – Director of Aid Effectiveness, Oxfam America
    Rapporteur: Craig Fagan – Senior Policy Coordinator, Transparency International Secretariat

    Panellists:
    Karin Christiansen, Director, Publish What You Fund
    Vivek Ramkumar, Manager of Open Budget Initiative, International Budget Partnership
    Samuel Rotta, Researcher, Proética (Transparency International Peru)

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    Eleanor Nichol, Senior Corruption Campaigner, Global Witness

    Resources

    You can listen to the Podcast by clicking on the play arrow below.

    Please note that panelists often speak in Spanish and the audio starts at about 20 seconds.

    Corruption Podcast

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Taking the Issue to Scale

    Since the Bangkok workshop took place, there has been much development globally on Aid Transparency.

    On 9th November 2011, over 6,385 signatures collected from 115 countries supporting the Make Aid Transparent campaign were handed over to Talaat Abdel Malek and Bert Koenders co-chairs of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness and Brian Atwood, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) at the OECD in Paris. The Make Aid Transparent campaign calls on aid donors to publish more and better information about the aid they give, in line with the international standard.

    The International Aid Transparency Initiative is continuing to develop. IATI has developed and agreed on a common, open, international standard that sets guidelines for publishing information about aid spending. 22 countries and 20 donors have now endorsed the IATI. Some civil society organisations, including Transparency International, have adopted the standard and will begin to publish their data in an IATI compliant way.

    Aid transparency is also figuring prominently in other initiatives targeting the openness of government. For example, the Open Government Partnership is a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The document ‘Opening Governments’ was published and covers transparency, accountability and citizen participation across 15 areas of governance, a key one being aid transparency. Both recipient and donor governments are called upon to take various substantial steps towards aid transparency. Nine countries, including the US and Brazil, endorsed the partnership and presented their open government plans in September at the UN General Assembly. Meanwhile the number of participating countries added up to 45. The Transparency and Accountability Initiative is working to realise these plans in collaboration with other global and national actors.

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