Aid and Beyond: Transparency, accountability and results

As negotiations heat up ahead of the Fourth High Level Forum on aid effectiveness (HLF-IV), many countries are keen to move beyond a narrow aid effectiveness agenda, bringing in a broader range of actors and issues in recognition of the changing development landscape. Emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil are becoming ever more important. The demand for Africa’s oil and mineral resources is growing, providing many African countries with new revenue streams. Traditional donors’ aid budgets are under pressure. And people are taking to the streets and the twitter-verse to demand more transparent and accountable governance, from north Africa to north America and beyond. However, broadening the conversation to include more actors and issues beyond aid, must not and need not be at the expense of clear, measurable and time-bound commitments on aid effectiveness.

At Busan, countries should make commitments to deliver and use aid in ways that promote transparent and accountable financing for development, and that focus clearly on results. This will put people and politics back in the picture, enabling citizens in both developing and developed countries to see what resources are available, how they are spent, and what results they achieve so that they can hold their governments to account.

On transparency, wealthy donor countries must commit to make aid transparent, publishing aid information in a timely, comprehensive and comparable manner, and in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). In addition, developing country governments should commit to making budget information available and accessible to their citizens. As the International Budget Partnership puts it: “open budgets, transform lives”. And transparency should be promoted in relation to other development resources, including natural resource revenues.

On accountability, participants at Busan should promote open and inclusive decision-making in developing countries, not only on aid management but on development policies more broadly. Donors should commit to provide the support that key accountability institutions such as parliaments and audit institutions need to hold governments to account. And donors and developing countries should – alongside ensuring that civil society can operate and organize safely and effectively – commit to do what is needed to help citizens use information to demand accountability.

Across all of their discussions on aid and development effectiveness, participants at Busan must focus on results and measuring development outcomes. Without good information about results, there can be little learning or accountability. Investments in statistical capacity and results monitoring in development countries must be stepped up so citizens in those countries can measure their own progress towards achieving national and international goals. And country-led monitoring processes in developing countries should be complemented by a global monitoring framework.

By making clear and monitorable commitments on transparency (including IATI), accountability and results, Busan can put people and politics back in the picture, make aid more effective and help to ensure that all development resources – aid and beyond – are used effectively in the fight against poverty.