Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Who owns it?

Although its argument is sound, Oxfam America's recent report on the control of aid flows can't help but attract cries of hypocrisy.

One of the 3 themes is 'information'; they piously call for country donors to be transparent about what they fund.

Making US foreign aid transparent is not just important to US taxpayers. It’s fundamental to smart development. Unless recipient countries get comprehensive, accessible, timely, and comparable information from donors, intended recipients can’t hold their governments accountable, and those governments can’t plan, prioritize, or explain to their populations what they are doing.

Why can't Oxfam follow its own advice and publish details of what it funds? At the moment even donors aren't privy to a full breakdown.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Unlocking aid

Aidinfo and the Open Knowledge Foundation have launched a consultation on their International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). It aims to establish common standards for recording and publishing aid information.

The central message is that aid information should be open: legally open, technically open and easy to find. This has been the OKFN message on a wide range of issues.

The next and more difficult step will be to agree on what types of information should be recorded for each aid project - and in what format.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Come on GHIs

In June the Lancet, a medical journal, published this free article on the effect of Global Health Initiatives (GHIs) on country health systems.

These GHIs generally target specific diseases such as HIV/AIDS or malaria. Their influence is massive: in 2007 the three biggest (the Global Fund, PEPFAR, and GAVI) donated over $7.5 billion.

Yet this extremely detailed report tears into the GHIs for failing to evaluate their impact on country health systems.
"No robust prospective studies of the effects of GHIs on country health systems have been done."
GHIs are characterised by their focus on scaling up selected services that have proven to be effective in the past and by their use of performance-based assessment to deliver their interventions. It's sadly ironic that they have failed to collect the evidence on the effect they are having on their key partners.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Here's an episode of Radio 4's Iconoclasts on the effectiveness or otherwise of foreign aid.

Kevin Watkins (who works on UNESCO's Global Monitoring Report) says:

"It's absolutely clear that a lot of aid is not maximising its potential, in many cases you have donors who are pursuing the wrong policies, propping up the wrong governments, not having the right focus on stabilisation and growth-orientated policies...that's all a given, we all accept that."
Health warning: Linda Whetstone (International Policy Network) is shrill and misinformed throughout.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Timeless values

Great quote on the International Budget Partnership website:

“To protect the Treasury from being defrauded, let all money be issued openly in front of the whole city, and let copies of the accounts be deposited in various wards.”

(Aristotle, The Politics quoted in Shah, 2007:234).

Sunday, 6 September 2009


The International Policy Network has released a slightly wild-eyed critique of DfID's communications spend.

The thrust of the argument is spot on: 'Communications' shouldn't be used to covertly fund political activities, especially those of dubious benefit for development.

But doesn't this line of attack still miss the target? In 2008-09 DfID's communications budget was £140 million, but this is out of an overall spend of £6.1 billion.

To focus on the communications budget is therefore to distract attention from the more deep-rooted problems with aid transparency and effectiveness, which are of a different order of magnitude.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The DfID response to my latest FOI request says that there are over 3,000 DfID projects which have had their performance assessed and recorded on the database.

They say they won't publish it because it "supports the operational management" of the projects (rather than being "key project content").

I've asked them for a data dump of all the records relating to these hidden fields. Once it's released, it should be possible to do a mash-up with the already-published information in the PPI.