Written by Jeannet Lingán, Advocacy Manager at Publish What You Fund
After months of discussion – and at times, confusion – we are finally able to see the light at the end of the post-2015 development agenda tunnel.
This comes in the form of two much anticipated publications: the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and the report of the Intergovernmental Expert Group on Financing for Sustainable Development (IEGFSD) published last week.
Both reports are crucial for those working to define the post-2015 development agenda, and will inform decision-making at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development next July and the all-important Post-2015 Summit in September.
I was particularly interested to see how transparency of development flows is portrayed in the IEGFSD report, and compare it to where we have seen progress and what needs still to be done. It is very likely that these issues will be open again in the run-up to next year’s summits, and can offer insight as to where Publish What You Fund should focus its efforts.
My first impression was that the report seemed positive. As well as having the principles of transparency scattered throughout, the report specifically lists ‘Transparency and Accountability of financing at national, regional and international levels’ as the ninth principle of the IEGFSD’s strategic approach. Importantly, it also has an entire paragraph on the data revolution.
Delving deeper into the content, I’m left with the feeling that the report could have made a stronger case for transparency and open data in relation to effectiveness and accountability, particularly by relying on the multiple examples of its implementation globally. Here’s why:
1) While the report references the data revolution, it could have been more explicit on the principles that should underpin such revolution. Crucially, the report should have recognised existing efforts to make development flows comparable via the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The biggest bilateral donors, private foundations, global development funds and climate funds are publishing information in a standard format using IATI. And here are some examples of what governments and civil society are doing with this information:
-Bolivia has been working with the Open Aid Partnership to produce a map, tracking development flows into the country. They now have plans to do this more systematically and include a feedback mechanism.
-France is mapping its development cooperation in Mali and will roll this out for more countries.
-The NGO Integrity Action uses development flows information to encourage social accountability that aims to effectively monitor development projects at community level.
2) While the report recommends strengthening national capacities for monitoring and accounting for financing flows, this should be extended to supporting national systems to collect information on all development flows and integrate them with their own planning processes. There are several initiatives involving governments, civil society and multilaterals that provide great examples of this work. The International Budget Partnership, the Open Aid Partnership and the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) are among those working towards improving transparency and effectiveness at national level. Publish What You Fund is also working with several partners to support the integration of development flows into country budget systems through our ‘aid on budget’ work.
3) Finally, recommendations on enhancing access to information and more and better quality information of sustainable development flows should not forget the role of users. For transparency and information to achieve its full potential of driving sustainable development forward; we need to promote its use by decision makers for planning and budgeting; and by civil society for holding the decision makers accountable.
For many years, the implementation of the transparency and accountability principles have benefited enormously from new information technologies and multi-stakeholder dialogues. By committing to the use of open data for sustainable development in a way that is harmonised, comprehensive, comparable, timely and accessible to all sustainable development actors, the next set of negotiations can help strengthen this movement.
It is a shame the IEGFSD report didn’t make a stronger case for transparency but it isn’t too late. There is still some way to go until the final negotiations around the post-2015 agenda. We look forward to feeding into these conversations as part of our Road to 2015 campaign, and we will continue to push for transparency and open data to be integrated as part of it.