Accra Agenda Transparency Langauge Called Unspecific

24 September 2008

The IATA announcement came as 1,200 delegates from 120 countries met Sept. 2-4 to complete the “Accra Agenda for Action on Aid Effectiveness.”

Many civil society organisations dubbed the communiqué an “agenda for inaction.” Among other things, the groups wanted stronger language on transparency and more comprehensive disclosure of information.

Without specifying how it will be achieved, donor governments committed to publish “regular, detailed, and timely” information on aid spending. They also committed to open procurement of services, as well as to providing “full and timely information” on current and planned aid spending, up to five years in advance.

The specific language says: “We will make aid more transparent. Developing countries will facilitate parliamentary oversight by implementing greater transparency in public financial management, including public disclosure of revenues, budgets, expenditures, procurement and audits. Donors will publicly disclose regular, detailed and timely information on volume, allocation and, when available, results of development expenditure to enable more accurate budget, accounting and audit by developing countries.”

Transparency International (TI) voiced its disappointment Sept. 5, indicating in a press release that “the meeting concluded with few firm, time-bound commitments on fighting corruption, jeopardizing the global campaign to end poverty.”

TI wrote: “Despite stated support by many attendees for aid transparency and accountability, the Forum’s communiqué, the Accra Action Agenda, ultimately fell short on specific timelines and concrete commitments to increase accountability and transparency in the development process. The lack of progress threatens to undermine aid as an effective tool for supplying medicines to clinics, building schools and attacking the roots of extreme poverty, which plagues more than 1.4 billion people around the world.”

Publish What You Fund Campaign Begins

Separately, a group of civil society organizations – including ONE (formerly DATA) and ActionAid – on Sept. 5 launched the Publish What You Fund Campaign, which lays out principles for greater transparency in the delivery and funding of aid.

The Publish What You Fund Campaign calls on donor governments to act immediately on commitments to greater transparency of aid made in the Accra Agenda, which the press release called “insufficient” but “nevertheless represent a step in the right direction.”

The campaign asked donor governments to fulfill their transparency commitments without delay.

“The commitments in the Accra Agenda for Action reflect growing recognition that greater transparency is central to aid delivering on its promise – to empower people in the fight against poverty,” said Martin Tisné, Programme Director at Tiri (London), one of the founders of the Publish What You Fund Campaign. “Lack of transparency is detrimental to democratic engagement and accountability and risks undercutting aid effectiveness.”

The Publish What You Fund Campaign sponsors also welcomed the launch of the International Aid Transparency Initiative to improve information about aid. The IATI responds to calls from civil society by establishing a process to deliver “full and detailed information on all aid” and “details and costs of individual projects“.

“The IATI has the potential to make real the Accra commitments to transparency,” said Helen Darbishire, Director of Access Info (Madrid) and a founder of the Publish What You Fund Campaign. “Donors have for years talked about transparency underpinning aid effectiveness, but have failed to deliver. We expect IATI to help change that by setting specific benchmarks for timely, accessible, and detailed information about aid.”

“We will be watching donors,” added Karin Christiansen, Policy Manager for ONE and a founder of the campaign. “The IATI is the vehicle for making the aid transparency commitments of the Accra Agenda for Action real. We expect donors to sign up to IATI and for it to deliver on the Publish What You Fund principles.”

Transparency means more than just disclosure – it also entails proactive communication with people in recipient countries. “Donors must ensure that IATI promotes accessible aid information in plain and readily comprehensible language and formats,” concluded Tisné.

The Publish What You Fund Campaign brings together groups working on aid, good governance and the right to access information to define how greater transparency of aid can be achieved. Publish What You Fund will monitor compliance with the transparency commitments in the Accra Agenda for Action and will participate in the IATI process.

The four principles of Publish What You Fund are:

1. Information on aid should be published proactively
2. Everyone has the right to request and receive information about aid
3. Information on aid should be timely, accessible and comparable
4. The right of access to information about aid should be actively promoted

By Toby McIntosh

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Filed under: IFTI Watch


In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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