Enhancing transparency in the aid sector

Sarah King
Communications and Events Manager
Council for International Development

At a time when trust in overseas aid is waning and the credibility of donor reporting in relation to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is being challenged, transparency initiatives like the recently published Aid Transparency Index 2022, play a key role in holding donor agencies to account.

The global campaign Publish What You Fund, which started the Index ten years ago, have said that:

“Over the ten years of running the Index we have seen how pressure and vigilance need to be maintained in order for standards to remain high. Good quality aid data publication requires good systems, a culture of transparency and continued effort by publishers.”

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), saw an impressive jump from ‘Poor’ to ‘Good’ in 2020, however, it has slipped back slightly in 2022.

In a recent Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee (FADTC) report, MFAT responded to questions around transparency of aid spending, saying that:

“The drop in our rating is due to a combination of IATI’s assessment method changing to use more demanding criteria – a change that is designed to continuously raise the bar for transparency – and the Ministry’s decision to approach improvements to transparency in a sustainable way.”

In order to enable the necessary improvements, MFAT is recruiting a dedicated transparency role to join their Pacific and Development Group.

It is positive to see an overall trajectory towards greater aid transparency across global donor agencies. And it would be fair to say that the Transparency Index has played a vital role in this upward trend. It is important however, not to get too complacent – agencies must continue to improve and should be held to account when measures slip.

Chart from Aid Transparency Index 2022

At the Council for International Development (CID), we understand that measuring and improving transparency is an ever-evolving area, requiring regular reviews and enhancements. The CID Code of Conduct, initiated in 2014, aims to increase stakeholder trust by enhancing the transparency and accountability of development and humanitarian aid organisations. Perhaps CID could look to develop a similar index alongside its Code of Conduct to rank its member organisations – certainly food for thought.

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