TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Last but not least, at L’Aquila donors pledged to be more transparent and more accountable; for the first time, they were going to be clear about how they planned to deliver on their commitments by breaking down their pledges into aid categories over a specified period of time. Donors have kept their promises to write annual accountability reports, but the quality of these reports is disappointing. The lack of systematised reporting significantly over-complicates the measurement of donor progress and their ability to hold one another accountable. An analysis of the nature of donors’ pledges and the content of the reports uncovers several specific issues that call into question the G8’s commitment to accountability:
1. Overall aid figures were reported in current dollars to make the G8 appear more successful in delivering their promises.
2. L’Aquila donor reporting varied between commitments and disbursements, whereas all donors should have reported both.
3. Nearly every donor chose a different time window for delivery.
4. Several donors reported spending in areas that were not in their original pledges.
5. Pre-AFSI baselines are near impossible to calculate.
The inability to establish a pre-AFSI baseline of food security spending makes the overall financial accomplishment of the initiative difficult to calculate. Agriculture, nutrition and development food aid are considered food security-specific and would all be included in a baseline figure for use in comparison with AFSI disbursements. However, in an effort to be comprehensive, donors included transport and storage, safety nets, rural development and ‘other’ sectors in the initiative. These sectors are not food security-specific in the OECD DAC database and thus an independent evaluator has no way of knowing what share of sector disbursements was spent ‘with the main purpose of improving food security’. They should be included, however, so that commitments and disbursements can be independently verified.
Other persistent challenges in tracking donor progress are that the pledges do not distinguish between grants and loans, the multilateral delivery channels do not require international organisations to identify how they intend to spend these funds or align with the Rome Principles, and there are no DAC tracking markers to show if funds are targeted towards small-scale farmers. Further, no agreed upon indicators for meeting the Rome Principles exist, making assessing progress quite subjective. Moving forward, donors must recommit to transparency and accountability by developing consistent data and measurable criteria for reporting spending, spending categories, targets and aid effectiveness.
If left unaddressed, the issues of not being able to (1) determine pre-AFSI baselines and (2) clearly monitor progress toward qualitative commitments will mean that civil society will be unable to check donor progress at will, thus making monitoring ad hoc and overly reliant on the G8 to gather information and write reports. Two main recommendations therefore emerge from an analysis of AFSI pledges and reporting. First, the G20 should call on the OECD DAC to add a ‘food security’ tracking marker to reported aid flows, as well as a marker that indicates whether development dollars are being targeted towards the most vulnerable people. Second, donors should agree upon measurable outcomes and indicators, as well as corresponding baselines, to track progress toward the promises of the AFSI.