Jan 23rd, 2013 4:37 PM UTC
Today, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) – ONE’s key partner for efforts to promote open and transparent budgets in developing countries – released their 2012 Open Budget Survey. The 2012 Survey assesses 100 countries on 125 questions; 95 about the availability to the public of documents related to the budget cycle, and 30 about how citizens may participate in their country’s budget process. The Survey was carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2010, but has evolved over time. This year, IBP has partnered with the Open Knowledge Foundation on a Data Explorer, where you can see maps and rankings of Open Budget Index scores, sort questions by topic, or look at how the rankings have changed over time. Check out the data – the results may surprise you!
Click the infographic to make it larger
Participation in Focus
New for this year’s Survey is a series of questions on participation, something which IBP and ONE agree is essential if budget transparency is to pay dividends in terms of accountability and improved development results. The average score for the 100 countries surveyed in the 2012 survey is just 19 out of 100 on the 30 questions that measure participation. We’re excited that IBP is focusing on improving participation, and about the innovative ways the survey shows countries are getting citizens involved – including South Korea’s finance ministry field trips, Trinidad and Tobago’s public forums, and New Zealand’s tax hotlines – which allow citizens to report tax evasion or fraud anonymously. Sharing these stories helps to show that not all participatory budget processes have to look the same.
The Open Budget Index
The Survey includes the 2012 Open Budget Index, where countries are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the 95 budget questions. Countries score zero by making no budget documents public, or 100 by being completely transparent and making public all documents.
For 40 countries, data illustrates that progress has been made since 2006; those countries’ average Index scores increased from 47 in 2006 to 57 in 2012. The Index also shows that countries that start from a low baseline of transparency improve faster than those whose scores are nearer the middle of the ranking. Similarly, it’s even harder for countries that score well to improve significantly. Since the 2010 Index, countries that had been the least transparent, with scores of 40 or less, improved from 19 in 2010 to 26 in 2012, a 36 percent increase. Otherwise, however, progress was limited between 2010 and 2012.
How is Africa Doing?
Among African countries, South Africa leads the way with a score of 90 on the Index. This score is 2nd overall, behind only New Zealand, and ahead of the United Kingdom. Uganda also scores well, with 65, in the “significantly” transparent category. Unfortunately, 14 of the 26 countries in the index that provide “scant or no information” on budget documents are African. However, bad Index scores are relatively cheap and easy to fix. By simply making public budget documents that countries already produce, Index scores would improve significantly. And making those documents public is crucial for citizens in those countries to see how their governments are spending money.
There are seven countries where transparency has improved significantly (by more than 15 points) since 2010: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mozambique, Pakistan and São Tomé e Príncipe. However, in Egypt, Zambia, Sri Lanka and Serbia, scores decreased by more than 15 points since 2010. So while improving budget transparency can be easy in the short term, institutionalizing participatory budget processes is more difficult, but necessary to ensure that progress is maintained and built upon by civil society.
South Africa: Africa’s Star Achiever
South Africa maintained very high levels of budget transparency in the 2012 Index, and while their rank dropped from 1st to 2nd in this year’s Index, their very high level of budget transparency – higher than that of the UK, France, Norway, Sweden and the United States – is very impressive. And the information that the South African government makes available has been used in successful budget advocacy. IBP’s website has multiple cases studies of local organizations using information about the budget to execute effective campaigns. One, by the Treatment Action Campaign, resulted in a National Treatment Plan for HIV/AIDS, putting 1.6 million HIV+ South Africans on ARV treatment. Another campaign focused on improving access of a social security grant to poor children increased access from 2 million in 2001 to nearly 11 million in 2012.
The IBP’s Open Budget Survey and Index are incredibly important to us, and to citizens around the world who need information in order to hold their leaders to account for the money they spend. We commend IBP on another job well done, and look forward to hearing more stories about how transparency is helping civil society around the world make the changes they want. Open Budgets, Transform Lives.
Jul 19th, 2012 12:23 PM UTC
This post from Adrian Lovett originally appeared in the Huffington Post
This week we celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday and it is a time for us to reflect on the achievements of the great man. I was lucky enough to share a stage with him in Trafalgar Square in 2005 for Make Poverty History. Today we still share a belief that what we pledged to do that day can be achieved.
Since he left prison in Paarl in 1990 after 27 years, Mr Mandela’s continent has arguably undergone changes as dramatic as any other, certainly in recent years. The Millennium Development Goals have helped focus leaders from around the world on the task of halving extreme poverty and fighting preventable disease and the results have been dramatic.
In the field of health, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is down by over 40%, child mortality has fallen by 30%, in large part due to extensive vaccination campaigns which have seen more than 5.4 million children’s lives saved in Africa between 2000 and 2009. And new vaccines recently developed against some of the biggest killers of children – diarrhoea and pneumonia– will save even more lives in the coming years.
The progress made against HIV/AIDS is staggering. Nearly 4 million Africans have been placed on life preserving antiretroviral treatment since 2002. And we now know how to prevent mothers passing HIV onto their children.
In education more than three-quarters of children on the continent are enrolled in primary education, over 46 million of these children since 1999, as Africa’s teachers set out to create the continent’s leaders of tomorrow.
Each life saved and life changed is living proof of the incredible progress we have all helped achieve.
These statistics feed into a bigger picture about the how the rest of the world has come to perceive Africa. Once dismissed as the “hopeless continent” it is now home to six of the ten fastest growing economies on the planet and foreign investment continues to flow in. Premier League football team Sunderland Athletic recently announced a two-year shirt sponsorship deal with “Invest in Africa”. With its vast natural resources, innovative tech entrepreneurs and growing working-age population Africa’s potential has seen it described by fund managers as “the best investment story on the planet.”
These examples, whilst impressive, are only a checkpoint on the road to 2015. Mr Mandela knew as much in 2005 in Trafalgar Square saying: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” We have achieved so much, but we cannot rest now that we are nearly there. Still 7.6m children die of preventable treatable diseases each year and a billion people go to bed hungry every night.
There is no reason to believe that we cannot finish the job. It is a long walk, but Mr Mandela is used to those. We have 1000 days between now and the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It may not seem like long but a lot can change in 1000 days if minds are focused and leaders committed. In just over 1000 days from walking free from prison, Nelson Mandela and others managed achieve what was unthinkable to many: to peacefully end apartheid and draw up a road map for a new nation.
In honour of the man himself and in recognition of his 67 years of public service, people around the world are choosing to mark Mandela Day by giving 67 minutes of their time to help others, be it towards the MDGs or local projects. My pledge is to keep working for the MDGs and to rally others to do the same, whether it’s joining ONE or making your own Mandela pledge.
Because of what has been achieved in recent years in the fight against poverty and disease, an entire generation of us in our twenties, thirties and forties can realistically contemplate a world where these scourges can actually be wiped out. In a few years, we could see the elimination of polio, even the beginning of the end of AIDS. We can plan for a time when no child is born with HIV, when diarrhoea and pneumonia rarely claim lives, when famine is a Biblical notion, not a present-day obscenity, and when extreme poverty is on the way to being a thing of the past. These goals are within our grasp and we should be determined to achieve them. Let’s be determined to take some great strides forward – not only in our lifetimes, but in Nelson Mandela’s too.
Jun 19th, 2012 10:32 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Rakesh Rajani is a ONE member and the Head of Twaweza (meaning “we can make it happen” in Swahili), a 10-year initiative to enhance access to information, citizen agency, and public accountability in East Africa. Below is his contribution to USAID’s Frontiers in Development essays.
If there were a prize for global organizations most tainted with corruption, FIFA, the International Federation of Football (Soccer) Associations, would be a strong contender.
For years, its board members are said to have demanded, received, and dished out bribes for purposes such as vote buying and selling rights to host the World Cup. The “crony culture” inside FIFA has reportedly caused huge losses—about $100 million in one instance alone when an exclusive deal with a marketing company went belly-up. These acts have spawned investigations, books, and blogs seeking to expose the organization, but FIFA appears to have warded off serious reform. Its current boss has been in charge for 14 years and part of FIFA for 38. He ran unopposed in the last election, in part because his two rivals were disqualiﬁed for foul play. His predecessor had been at the helm for 24 years.
Precise numbers are difﬁcult to establish, but soccer has well over a billion supporters worldwide. Many of these tune in every week on radio, TV, and, increasingly, the Internet. More than 700 million are estimated to have watched the ﬁnal games of the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, across all six continents. It is easily the world’s biggest sport.
While growing up in Mwanza, Tanzania, listening to commentary of English league games on a crackly BBC shortwave transmission was the highlight of my week. Today, walk through East Africa’s bustling neighborhoods or rural communities on weekends, and you will likely see animated men and (increasingly) women listening to a duel between national rivals or watching Chelsea play Arsenal or Barcelona take on Real Madrid. You will see much of the same across large parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In many cases, these are communities that have no electricity and low incomes, but some entrepreneur will have rigged up a generator and an improvised satellite dish, and be turning a tidy proﬁt charging entrance fees.
It’s not only about relaxing in front of the TV. Soccer is among the most common topics on social media, radio call-in shows, and street corners. Crotchety pundits, hip pre-teens, and nerdy economists alike pore over team statistics to discern patterns, debate choices, and predict outcomes. It is public engagement interspersed with politics, business, and local drama, but soccer remains at the core. And soccer evokes great emotion. When there is a crucial goal or save, observe the poetry of celebration rituals or the slow motion implosions of defeat among both players and fans. It’s quite an experience.
Why does soccer work? Why, unlike so many badly governed public agencies, NGOs, and projects, is soccer so powerful, lively, and engaging? Could it be that soccer has got something so right, that it doesn’t much matter that its state of supra governance is somewhat shambolic? And if that is indeed the case, might it provide useful insights for how we think about development in countries where the intractable problems of supra governance will not be sorted out soon?
Soccer and development, while very different, have several features in common. I’ll highlight four. Both have purposes or goals to score. Both have rules and conventions of how things are to be done. Both have someone deciding whether conduct is right, imposing sanctions for foul behavior, and judging the ﬁnal outcome. And both have actors who need to be motivated and focused to deliver. But each handles these features very differently.
In Soccer, Success Is Clear and Simple
Soccer isn’t called the “beautiful game” for nothing. Players display enormous skill when dribbling, passing, and making daring dives and gravity-defying turns. Fans love these moves, and TV screens replay some of the best ones over and over, so that viewers can study the skill and savor the moment. Papers speak of the teams that play the most entertaining football. But all this skill is aligned toward a very simple and very clear purpose: to score more goals than the other team. Sure, a lot of other statistics are collected, such as the number of passes, number of fouls, percentage of possession, ages of the players, and so forth. The artistry is fun and appreciated, but what matters is how it contributes toward the purpose. What counts is the ﬁnal score.
The incentives are well aligned too, in the short and long term. You win the game, you celebrate, your team gets three points. Everyone involved—the players, the managers, the owners, the spectators—understand this. In the long term, those points and goals add up, and you move up the league table or on to the next round of the competition, until you win the cup. The better you perform, the more likely you are to earn a better salary.
Read the complete essay on page 18 of USAID’s Frontiers in Development publication.
Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID.
Feb 15th, 2011 7:30 AM UTC
By Lai Yahaya
My experience of nearly two decades working for and with development agencies in sub-Saharan Africa has led me to join the rapidly growing campaign for greater aid effectiveness. The more than $100 billion spent annually on overseas development assistance, with over 80,000 on-going projects around the world, armies of “fly-in/fly-out” consultants, aid workers and service providers deployed in every conceivable sector, is clearly not delivering the intended results.
In my country, Nigeria, aside from DFID’s Infrastructure Advisory Facility and some useful donor interventions in health and education, it really is difficult to identify projects that can be said to have been either a good return on investment or ostensibly to have done much to reduce incidences of poverty. In a climate of global fiscal austerity, taxpayers the world over are understandably questioning the value of continuing to fund an industry that rarely provides value for money.
The evolving aid effectiveness movement, which seeks to rationalise aid and make it more transparent, is encouraging and has gone far in promoting dialogue on transparency. But the 2005 Paris Declaration, where governments and aid agencies committed to improved aid effectiveness, remains a donor-centric initiative with little input, let alone ownership, from either the developing world or the actual aid beneficiaries. And it is likely that we may just see more of the same donor-centric talk at the next High Level forum on Aid Effectiveness taking place in South Korea later this year.
We know that for aid to be truly effective it needs to be “smarter”, with a focus on being accountable, responsive to citizen needs and transparent. Unless we are able to give a seat at the table to the beneficiaries of aid and the citizen groups, campaigners and activists who seek to hold donors and managers more accountable, we are likely to just see more conferences, workshops and well-meaning initiatives that ultimately will only scratch at the surface of the problem.
Fortunately, advances in communications technology provide us with the tools needed to change this. In the same way that such initiatives as Ushahidi.com have transformed the way people access information around elections, the donor-beneficiary relationship will also change if individuals and communities can access and interact with development aid data. It will provide them with a greater understanding of the development aid business, hold donors more accountable and establish the sort of feedback loops that are critical for the better design and deployment of aid resources on the ground.
A small team of development veterans, software and web application developers has been brought together to develop a new open source platform that not only aggregates aid data in an accessible manner, but also allows citizens to interact with that data and generate content directly. Called TransparentAID, the platform will be a web-based portal that visually maps existing aid spending at the regional, country, project and donor level in developing countries. It will enable real-time, social monitoring and evaluation of development projects and, most importantly, provides citizen interaction to improve the visibility, and accessibility of projects and local community involvement.
With such tools we can truly “democratise aid”, giving individuals and communities a real voice, and helping to ensure that both aid recipients and donor tax payers reap the benefits.
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