Developing countries face huge challenges in accessing up-to-date information about aid, development and humanitarian flows – information that they need to plan and manage those resources effectively. Similarly, citizens in developing countries and in donor countries lack the information they need to hold their governments to account for the use of those resources. IATI aims to address these challenges by making information about aid spending easier to access, use and understand.
IATI is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to improve the transparency of aid, development and humanitarian resources in order to increase their effectiveness in tackling poverty. IATI brings together donor and recipient countries, civil society organisations and other experts in aid information who share the aspirations of the original IATI Accra Statement and are committed to working together to increase the transparency of aid.
IATI began its work by consulting developing country stakeholders about their information needs, and discussing with donors the most efficient and effective way of meeting these. On the basis of these consultations, IATI developed and agreed a common, open, standard for the publication of aid information – the IATI Standard. Organisations implement IATI by publishing their aid information in IATI’s agreed electronic format (XML) – usually on their website – with a link to the IATI Registry, The Registry acts as an online repository or index of links for all of the raw data published to the IATI Standard.
In developing the Standard, IATI has been careful not to duplicate the work already being done by other organisations such as the OECD-Development Assistance Committee (DAC), who produce statistics about past aid flows. Instead, the IATI standard builds on – and goes beyond – the standards and definitions that have already been agreed by the DAC Creditor Reporting System (CRS).
Progress on IATI
IATI has grown significantly since its launch and its membership includes many donors, partner country endorsers, foundations and civil society organisations. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) became the first signatory to publish to IATI in January 2011. Since then, over 260 organisations have published data to the IATI Registry, including donor governments and multilaterals, NGOs, foundations and private sector companies.
The IATI Secretariat convened a group to define the common standard together with representatives from IATI’s Steering Committee and the OECD DAC’s Working Party on Statistics and the leaders of the Busan Building Block on Transparency.
Detailed negotiations led to an agreement that was endorsed by the final meeting of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF) in June 2012. This confirmed that the common standard will combine three complementary systems: the DAC Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and Forward Spending Survey (FSS), and IATI.
A key aspiration is using IATI compliant data at country level. IATI, with Development Gateway, has successfully piloted automated data exchange between donors’ IATI data feeds and the national aid management system in DRC, the Plateforme de Gestion de l’Aide et des Investissements (PGAI). PGAI is now using live IATI data from DFID, The Global Fund and GAVI, with plans to roll this out to other donors including Canada, EC, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and UNDP in the coming months. Similar work in aligning IATI data with national aid information management systems and country budgets is planned in Rwanda and Nepal, while IATI is exploring the scope for integrating data from NGOs and South-South Cooperation providers in aid management systems in Colombia.
IATI was launched at the third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra in 2008 and was specifically designed to support donors in meeting their Accra commitments on transparency as set out in the Accra Agenda for Action as follows:
- Donors will publicly disclose regular, detailed and timely information on volume, allocation and, when available, results of development expenditure to enable more accurate budget, accounting and audit by developing countries.
- Donors and developing countries will regularly make public all conditions linked to disbursements.
- Donors will provide full and timely information on annual commitments and actual disbursements so that developing countries are in a position to accurately record all aid flows in their budget estimates and their accounting systems.
- Donors will provide developing countries with regular and timely information on their rolling three- to five-year forward expenditure and/or implementation plans, with at least indicative resource allocations resource allocations where possible so that developing countries can integrate them into their medium term planning and macroeconomic frameworks. Donors will address any constraints to providing such information.
Between the Accra and Busan High Level Forums, IATI contributed to the ongoing work of the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s Working Party on Aid Effectiveness on Transparent and Responsible Aid. In the run up to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, IATI contributed to the Building Block on Transparency. The Busan outcome document, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, was released on 1st December 2011 and includes a specific reference to IATI, committing all those who endorsed it to:
“Implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward looking information on resources provided through development cooperation, taking into account the statistical reporting of the OECD DAC and the complementary efforts of the International Aid Transparency Initiative and others. This standard must meet the needs of developing countries and non-state actors, consistent with national requirements. We will agree on this standard, and publish our respective schedules to implement it by December 2012, with the aim of implementing it full by December 2015”.