Aid Transparency, what is it Good For? Accountability, Gender Equality, Ownership, and Planning and Coordination

Over the past ten years, development actors have committed to high quality transparency through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). With an increase in awareness about IATI among civil society in Uganda, they can use IATI information to monitor service delivery in ways they were not able to before.

There is a lot of talk about data revolutions, and for some services like google maps the ease of access to data has drastically changed life around the world. However, for smaller data initiatives like the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI),  they get lost in the sea of data and over information with an uncertainty around what is the right data, the right source, and how to find it. It takes more than simply being part of the revolution; it takes engagement, training, and awareness rising. You cannot simply build it and assume they will come.  To build on this belief I ran a training on using data from International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) in Uganda. For the participants, it was as if suddenly, a spot light was shown on the services in Uganda funded by external actors.  Some projects are in loans, some in grants, some through their own government, some through external implementers, but all the information flowed through this subset of data revolution –IATI- that many were unaware of.   As the training went on, it became clear the information that civil society and media participants had previously thought was inaccessible and is now at their fingertips through the power of the internet.

However, knowing data exists is just the first step in the process; the second step is using the information, and then hopefully to bring about change.  So, after the training some members of civil society and the media, found projects to dig into and figure out what was happening in their country. 

Because they knew about IATI and how to access the information through d-portal.org, a women’s rights organization known as Women and Girl Child Development Association (WEGCDA) was able to find a Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response project for $40 million, which is being implemented by Government with funding from the World Bank in the form of a loan.   Suddenly, this women’s rights group could find out not just that money was being spent in their country for this project, but also how it was supposed to be spent -what the objectives are, how men and boys are included, and who the broad targets are. Without IATI (and World Bank’s commitment to transparency) they may not have known the project existed until well into its implementation. Even then they may have had to hope and beg for little tidbits of information based on connections with the right people in government.  While it works for some, needing connections with government officials to access information further consolidates power with the elite and limits the ability of women and other marginalized groups to push for change. Instead this women’s rights organization can use project documents immediately to examine if the project is geared to addressing equality in their engagement with women, girls and persons with disability. They can also go to the communities mentioned in documents to find out if they are aware of the project that is supposed to be serving them. 

Having easy access to more detailed documents via IATI is not just for gender work, it is for all types of projects from roads and infrastructure to agriculture development and climate.  However, not all organizations’ that publish information on IATI are equal, as Climate Action Network Uganda,  discovered when they tried to find information on a disaster risk reduction project they were excited about. The donor did not publish enough information for them to do anything with it.  While there was enough information to reach out to the donor to find out more, in a limited time frame without inside connections, they were not able to gain access to more information. They decided it was a better use of their time to find a new project.  Thankfully d-portal has a search function for climate policy makers, so it is easy to find climate mitigation and adaption projects in a specific country, so they easily identified a new project focused on climate adaption.

Regardless of sector or focus, civil society actors in Uganda are gaining access to information about service delivery for their country because of aid transparency. As more and more organizations across the world learn about this data revolution that has been happening for 10 years, the opportunities to improve development outcomes globally will also hopefully improve with increased coordination and accountability.  

Compilation by: Aria Grabowski; Joseph Olwenyi; Sophie Kyagulanyi; Charity Kyomujjurizi; Miriam Talwisa; Julius Kapwepwe and Elliot Orizaarwa