IS IT TRANSPARENT?
Every quantifiable commitment should come with – or be swiftly followed by – a clear presentation which shows how many years the commitment is for; a clear deadline; which budget line item the commitment is coming from; what the initial baseline is; and how the budget line item will change in future years. All this information needs to be comprehensive, comparable and timely, and to be available and accessible to the citizens of both recipient and donor countries. It should be accessible, ideally in machine-readable formats, on websites and in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) format standards.
IS IT RESULTS-ORIENTED?
Financial promises should link expenditure to real-world outcomes. In the context of ODA, these outcomes should be set by the recipient countries. A clear presentation of desired results will help the citizens of developing countries hold their governments – and the whole development sector – accountable for delivery of these results.
IS IT ADDITIONAL?
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of making promises, and one which makes the process vulnerable to abuse, is judging whether or not any of the money promised is new and additional. There is often confusion as to the meaning of additionality, as donors can justify new commitments as being ‘new’ in many ways. Overall, every promise that claims to be ‘additional’ must answer the question ‘additional to what?’.
IS IT CONDITIONAL?
Often increases in resources are conditional upon changes in policy, both by the government and other agencies who are programming the resources, and above all by the implementing partner in the recipient developing country. Some conditionalities are onerous and much research has shown that conditions that impose policy choices on the recipient tend to be counter-productive. Others are important and necessary (i.e. the need for fiscal transparency and good audits and monitoring of projects). In either case, however, it is important for the conditionalities to be clear and openly presented.
HOW WILL WE KNOW IT’S BEEN KEPT?
As part of any major promise, a mechanism should be identified, preferably an independent mechanism, to measure and monitor progress through the life-cycle of the promise to help ensure that it is kept and that performance along the way is publicised to citizens and the media.