Aid Transparency Endorsed at Conference in Busan, Korea

2 December 2011

Officials from some 160 countries meeting in Busan, South Korea, agreed Dec. 1 that development aid should be spent more efficiently and more transparently.

Delegates adopted a 12-page non-binding declaration that will “establish a new, inclusive and representative Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation to support and ensure accountability for the implementation of commitments at the political level.” The outcome effectively sets a different standard for emerging donors such as China and India, according to media reports.

On the transparency front, Karin Christiansen, Managing Director of Publish What You Fund said: “Aid transparency emerged as a key win at this summit which was otherwise more about words than action. By signing up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative the US and Canada have decisively tipped the balance in favour of this reporting standard. Donors who remain outside the fold, such as France and Japan, should sign up immediately. Meanwhile new signatories and those who have yet to publish their implementation plans should do so as soon as possible. Then we will be able turn the significant potential of this initiative into the reality of better coordinated and thus higher impact aid.”

The main section on transparency in the declaration states:

Transparent and responsible cooperation

 23. We will work to improve the availability and public accessibility of information on development co–‐operation and other development resources, building on our respective commitments in this area. To this end, we will:

a) Make the full range of information on publicly funded development activities, their financing, terms and conditions, and contribution to development results, publicly available subject to legitimate concerns about commercially sensitive information.

b) Focus, at the country level, on establishing transparent public financial management and aid information management systems, and strengthen the capacities of all relevant stakeholders to make better use of this information in decision–‐making and to promote accountability.

c) Implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward–‐looking information on resources provided through development cooperation, taking into account the statistical reporting of the OECD–‐DAC and the complementary efforts of the International Aid Transparency Initiative and others. This standard must meet the information needs of developing countries and non–‐state actors, consistent with national requirements. We will agree on this standard and publish our respective schedules to implement it by December 2012, with the aim of implementing it fully by December 2015.

Rejected during the deliberations was a proposal from the World Bank to restrict  disclosure of information to cover only “non-commercial” activities. A compromise allowed disclosure of a full range of information on all publicly funded development activities “subject to legitimate concerns about commercially sensitive information.”

Donors also acknowledged the need to “promote the coherence, transparency and predictability of climate finance.”

The 3,000 delegates included U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

One largely positive blog post analyzing the overall outcome began: “It will take weeks, months and ultimately years before the impact of the last few days at the Busan forum on aid effectiveness will be known, and it is impossible to find two people with the same opinion at the moment.” This appeared in The Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog, written by Jonathan Glennie, who works at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) as a research fellow in the Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure (CAPE). The blog also ran a brief summary of the issues in a pre-meeting posting.

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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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