INVITE: London Launch of the Aid Transparency Index 2013

Opening up aid flows: progress with implementing a common information standard

Please join us at the OGP Summit for a discussion on opening up aid flows, with contributions from the Sunlight Foundation, DFID, BudgIT and UNOPS.

The Panel

Ellen Miller, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation – facilitator

David Hall-Matthews, Managing Director, Publish What You Fund

John Adams, Head of IT and Innovation, Department for International Development

Oluseun Onigbinde, Co-Founder and Lead Director, BudgIT

Jan Mattsson, Executive Director, UNOPS, Secretariat of the International Aid Transparency Initiative

9.30 – 10.30 am, Friday 1st November

In parallel session room 5 at the Open Government Partnership

The event will also be live-streamed here.

Panellists will be taking questions from the audience, so join in the Twitter conversation using #2013ATI

This event is being held as part of Global Transparency Week.

#transparencyweek

@aidtransparency

ODI global network announced

Agreements with USA, Canada, Dubai, Moscow, Paris, and Manchester amongst 13 to be signed during first annual Summit

Some Rights Reserved. Image by Eric FischerThe ODI has announced the creation of 13 ODI Nodes around the world. The Nodes bring together companies, universities and NGOs that support open data projects and communities.

Since its official opening in December 2012, the ODI has been inundated with requests from across the world, asking for support to set up country-wide or regional versions of the organisation. Over the past six months, the ODI has engaged with dozens of people around the world, in an open process, to co-create this network.

Two Nodes are country-wide trials with NGOs in the USA and Canada. Eight are city or regional Nodes: ODI Dubai, ODI Chicago, ODI North Carolina, ODI Paris, ODI Trento, ODI Manchester, ODI Brighton, and ODI Leeds. The final three are communications-focused: ODI Gothenburg, ODI Moscow, ODI Buenos Aires (see details below on the three types of nodes).

The announcement marks the start of a substantial international open data network. An official signing ceremony will take place during the first annual ODI Summit at the Museum of London.

Gavin Starks, CEO at the ODI said:

I have been amazed at the energy and enthusiasm of people looking to align around a global network of ODIs. The speed at which we have been able to collaborate,the shared thinking about the approach and the scale of the potential, indicate that the ODI is an idea whose time has come. We have borrowed from the design principles of the web itself to bring people and organisations together, and will use open data both to collaborate with each other, and as the primary output of the network.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

The Open Data Institute – the first organisation of its kind – grew out of our belief in the power of open data to foster innovation, drive economic growth and create prosperity. The fact that only one year on, cities and countries around the world want to adopt the ODI model, is evidence of how quickly the open data revolution is spreading. The establishment of ODI Nodes in UK cities will help embed an open data culture in communities, and bring the economic benefits of new and innovative data-led businesses that will help the UK compete in the global race.

About the Nodes

Each Node has agreed to adopt the ODI Charter, which is an open source codification of the ODI itself, and embodies principles of open data business, publishing, communication, and collaboration.

The creation of ODI Nodes around the world highlights how people are using the power of open data to combine expertise and resources. Each Node will catalyse open data culture within their own communities and communicate open data success stories globally. City and regional Nodes will identify open data collaboration projects, and publish data relating to themselves and their work using open standards such as the ODI Open Data Certificate.

The three types of Node

  • Country Nodes: Independent NGOs who are building national centres of excellence, working across public and private sectors, NGOs, educational institutions and other Nodes within the country. ODI USA and ODI Canada are currently in “beta” to reflect their startup status.
  • City or Regional Nodes deliver projects, and can provide training, research, and development. ODI Dubai, ODI Chicago, and ODI North Carolina, ODI Paris, ODI Trento, ODI Brighton, ODI Manchester, ODI Leeds fall into this category.
  • Communications Nodes amplify open data case studies from around the world and promote understanding. ODI Moscow, ODI Buenos Aires and ODI Gothenburg have joined at this level.

Organisations act as hosts for the city, regional and communications Nodes: these are businesses, universities and NGO’s.

Waldo Jaquith, Founder of ODI USA, said:

The United States has a vibrant, fast-growing open data ecosystem. The ODI provides a model that can help to catalyse and connect the organizations, governments, businesses, and individuals who are doing brilliant work with open data. It’s time to bring the ODI model to the United States.

Dennis Brink, Co-Founder of ODI Canada, said:

Joining the International network of ODI Nodes is a great opportunity for the Canadian Open Data Institute and we are honoured to be a part of this global network. Its ongoing development allows us to gain from the experience that the ODI brings to the open data and governance space through its initiatives. We expect this to have a positive impact on our ability to successfully deliver on initiatives and to connect all Canadians with the open data movement.

Ibrahim Elbadawi, ODI Dubai, Managing Director, Exantium, United Arab Emirates

We are excited to announce this partnership with the ODI, which will enable us to collaborate and bring the knowledge, expertise and best practices in the emerging domain of open data to the Arab region. Open data as a culture and practice can help societies find innovative solutions for today’s multi-faceted challenges. We will offer government and non government organisations in the region localised versions of the ODI’s open data training programs and promote the use of ODI Certificates.

Aid data: Time to get crunching! A compilation of data sets related to global development…for the geek in all of us.

Originally posted on the Oxfam America Blog. Written by Stephanie Oum.

It’s Global Transparency Week, so we’re sharing a raw list of data sets and indices sorted by a variety of development topics, all for your data-crunching pleasure!

In no way is this list comprehensive—we know that there are hundreds of data sets out there—but these are a good start. Mixed into this list are very specific data sets, like Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index, to meta-data sets like World Bank indicators, right down to databases on different laws, treaties, and reports. (Do note that inclusion on this list should not be seen as Oxfam’s assessment of data quality.)

Feel free to (and please do!) add any missing data sets that you find useful in the comments section below.

Development and Aid Datasets

Datasets & Indices

Focus

Description

DARA Humanitarian Response Index Aid Effectiveness Monitors quality and effectiveness of aid
OECD Creditor Reporting System (CRS) Aid Effectiveness Development, aggregate official/private flows, geographical data, sector level data, CRS, CPA/FSS, Paris Declaration, African Economic Outlook
Paris Declaration Indicators of Progress Aid Effectiveness Progress in implementing Paris Indicators
World Bank: Aid Effectiveness Aid Effectiveness World Bank Indicators on Aid Effectiveness
Afghanistan Development Assistance Database Aid effectiveness, Afghanistan Aid management and coordination; International documents and policy statements
AidData Database Aid transparency Information on foreign aid projects financed by governments and aid agencies between 1945 and present
AidData Raw Aid transparency Collection of donor datasets; new information that is not yet vetted or standardized by AidData’s main database
AidFlows Aid transparency Visualizes how much development aid is provided and received around the world
AidView Aid transparency Tablet-computer optimized interface on IATI data
Akvo Open Aid Search Aid transparency IATI data sorted by publisher, budget, countries, regions and sectors
Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Aid transparency Disaster Aid Tracking
IATI raw data registry Aid transparency IATI data sorted by publisher, budget, countries, regions and sectors
International Budget Partnership (IBP) Open Budget Index Aid transparency Assigns score to each country on overall commitment to transparency
Open Government Dashboard Aid transparency Federal spending (all agencies)
Publish What You Fund Aid transparency Aid Transparency Index
Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) Aid transparency Quality of Development Aid rankings
ESCAP Data Center (UN Economic and Social Commission for Asian and the Pacific) Development Country-level data related to demography, migration, education, health, poverty, gender, employment, economy, government finance, employment, transport, and environment
Gapminder Development Facts about social, environmental and economic development
Inter-American Development Bank Development Indicators for Latin America and the Caribbean
Millennium Development Goal Indicators Development MDGs
OECD Statistics Development Governance, foreign aid, health, agriculture, development, energy, economy, environment; etc
UNDP: Country Profiles Development Country Profiles from UNDP
UNDP: Explorer Development Public Data Explorer
UNDP: Human Development Index Development International Human Development Indicators
World Bank: Development Impact Evaluation Initiative Development Effictiveness of development policies
World Bank: World Development Indicators Development World Development indicators at a national, regional, and global level
Financial Tracking Services (FTS) Foreign Assistance Global, real-time database which records all reported international humanitarian aid flows. The database is maintained by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Dataview Foreign Assistance US Government foreign assistance obligation and expenditure data sorted by country, sector, agency and year
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Department of Defense Foreign Assistance Department of Defense aid flows
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Department of Treasury Foreign Assistance Department of Treasury aid flows
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Global Climate Change Foreign Assistance Appropriations details on adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscapes
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Global Health Initiative Dataset Foreign Assistance Appropriations details on HIV/AIDS, maternal health, malaria, family planning, TB, Nutrition, Public Health threats, pandemic influenza and vulnerable children.
Government Spending Watch Foreign Assistance MDG spending on agriculture, education, environment, gender, health, social protection, water and sanitation
The Aid Explorer Foreign Assistance “Mapping the hyperspace of international aid”
The Food Aid Informationa System (FAIS) World Food Programme database Foreign Assistance Data on food aid flows
The Greenbook Foreign Assistance Data on US overseas loans and grants
UNDP Projects Foreign Assistance Database of all UNDP projects
World Bank: Open Financial data Foreign Assistance World Bank financial disbursements

 

Sector-Specific Datasets

Datasets & Indices

Focus

Description

CountrySTAT Agriculture Web-based information technology system for food and agriculture statistics at the national and subnational levels
FAOSTAT Agriculture Large time-series and cross sectional data relating to hunger, food and agriculture for 245 countries and territories and 35 regional areas, from 1961 to the most recent year
Foreign Assistance Dashboard: Feed the Future Agriculture President’s global hunger and food security initiative
UNODA- UN Register of Conventional Arms Arms Trade UN Register of Conventional Arms
CIA World Factbook Civil Society Governance, economy, geography, communcations, transportation, military and transnational issues for 267 world entities
Civicus  Civil Society Database on civil society by civil society
International Center for Nonprofit Law (ICNL) Civil Society Database of laws, reports, and other civil society legal resources from countries around the world
Correlates of War Conflict Datasets on international conflict, militarized international disputes, bilateral trade, and diplomatic exchanges
Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) Conflict Database on legal and illegal small arms trade
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO): Armed Conflict Conflict Database on armed conflict
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO): Armed Conflict Conflict Mapping arms data
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO): Conflict Conflict Datasets on specific aspects of geography that influence conflict
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Conflict Data on international arms transfers, world military expenditure, the arms and military services industry and multilateral peace operations
Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) Conflict Datasets on organized violence and peacemaking
Transparency International Corruption Corruption indices and reports
Transparency International: GATEway Corruption Corruption measurements
GeoHive Demography Global Population Statistics
OECD (demography) Demography Database on immigrants in OECD countries
UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (ESA) Demography Population division, population estimates and projections
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Population Reference Bureau Demography Country profiles for population and reproductive health: policy developments and indicators for use by country officers, policy-makers and researchers.
CEPALSTAT (UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) Economy Economic, sociodemographic, and environmental indicators for LAC region.
Enterprise Surveys Economy International Finance Corporation (IFC) database that offers an expansive array of economic data on 130,000 firms in 135 countries; data is provided in a variety of ways.
Global Economic Database (UN DESA) Economy Macroeconomic indicators in graphical interface and the traditional database.
IMF- IFS Database Economy International Financial Statistics
International Monetary Fund Data Mapper Economy World Economic Outlook
OECD Country statistical profiles Economy Economic surveys
OECD Factbook Economy Economic, environment and social statistics
The World Economic Forum Economy World Economic Forum reports on global issues including environment, education, individual industries and technologies.
UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) Economy World Investment Report
Edstats (World Bank) Education Education statistics
UNESCO Data Centre Education Indicators and raw data on education, literacy, science and technology, culture and communication.
Open Energy Info (OpenEI) Energy Open energy datasets
ECOLEX Environment Database providing information on environmental law– treaties, legislation, court decisions and literature.
Environmental Treaties and Resouce Indicators Environment Database of environmental treaties
InforMEA (UN) Environment UN information portal on multilateral environmental agreements.
United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) Environmental Indicators Environment Data on interational environmental statistics, including air & climate, biodiversity, energy & minerals, forests, governance, inland water resources, land & agriculture, marine & coastal areas, natural disasters, and waste.
Gender Equality Data & Statistics (World Bank) Gender Gender statistics
FAO Gender and Land Rights Database Gender, Land Rights Database on gender and land rights by country, topic selection and comparative reports
AIDSinfo (UNAIDS) Global Health Data on HIV/AIDS showing global trends– easy interface
Childinfo Database (UNICEF) Global Health Childrens rights, health and development
Distat, the UN Disability Statistics Database Global Health Basic statistics on human functioning and disability
Gapminder Global Health Global health indicators compiled using various data providers
Global Burden of Disease project- Health Metrics Institute Global Health DALYs
Health Systems Database (USAID, Abt) Global Health Health Systems
Health, Nutrition and Population Data & Statistics (World Bank) Global Health Health status, health determinants and health finances
Measusure DHS Demographic and Health Surveys (with USAID) Global Health Custom tables based on hundreds of demographic and health indicators. Customize tables to view indicators by background characteristics, over time, and across countries.
World Health Organization (WHO): Global Health Observatory Global Health WHO’s portal providing access to data and analyses for monitoring the global health situation
UNICEF childinfo Global Health, Human Rights Focusines on child and women’s health and development.
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO): Governance Governance Governance in civil war
Quality of Government Institute (QOG) Governance Effects of quality of government on policy areas such as health, the environment, social policy, and poverty.
World Freedom Atlas Governance Data concerned with freedom, democracy, good governance, and development
Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) Governance Voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption
Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Data Project Human Rights Data on human rights violations for 195 countries from 1981-2009
Freedom House Human Rights Human rights, democracy, governance
UNHCR: Population statistics Human Rights UNHCR Population statistics
Relief web Humanitarian Collection of maps indexed by country and the type of disaster or emergency
World Bank: Measuring Income Inequality Dataset  Inequality Economy and income inequality
World Income Inequality Database (WIID) Inequality Economy and income inequality
Data.gov Meta-data Datasets from the US Federal Government
Data.gov.uk Meta-data Datasets from UK Government
UN Statistics Division Meta-data Datasets from the UN
DPA UN Peacemaker (Peace Agreements Database) Peacemaking Database of peace agreements, guidance, material and info on the UN’s mediation support services.
PovcalNet Poverty Poverty analysis tool
World Bank: Poverty & Equity Data Poverty Global poverty indicators
World Bank: Poverty and Inequality Poverty, Inequality Poverty analysis stata programs for poverty dynamic analysis
UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) Refugee Health, Human rights Standards and indicators report for refugee health and human rights
Social Indicators (World Bank) Social Development Social development, population, health, housing, education, work
IDATD (Integrated Database of Trade Disputes for Latin America and the Caribbean) Trade Dispute Settlements and trade agreements by region and country
UNCTAD STAT Trade Database of trade and economic trends

- See more at: http://politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2013/10/29/aid-data-time-to-get-crunching/#sthash.D643QFiG.dpuf

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation commends former CIDA for making the top ten in the Aid Transparency Index

Ottawa, October 28, 2013.

On the first day of Global Transparency Week, the Aid Transparency Index was published, with Canada climbing to the 8th position out of 67 donor countries and organizations. The index, put out by Publish What You Fund – an independent advocacy group focusing on promoting greater aid transparency of major donors –recognizes that Canada is delivering on its commitments to more transparent development assistance.

“The former Canadian International Development Agency, and Minister Paradis, should be congratulated for making significant progress in just two years after signing on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (1), and for delivering on its commitments in the implementation schedule. Since last year, Canada has leapfrogged more than twenty places in the ranking of the global aid transparency index”, highlighted Julia Sanchez, President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC).

CCIC is the national network of Canadian Civil Society organizations working in international development and has been an active supporter of the IATI process at the international level; transparency is an important issue both for CCIC and for its member organizations.

“We are also encouraged by the former CIDA’s plans to now make this data more user-friendly and accessible to Canadians”, added Ms Sanchez.

The first ever Global Transparency Week is taking place at a time when public interest in government and corporate transparency is higher than ever. Global Transparency Week started with the publication of the Aid Transparency Index in Washington on October 24, and will conclude with the Open Government Partnership summit in London from October 31 to November 1 (2).

CCIC is hopeful that the good performance of the former CIDA will serve as a catalyst to transition the rest of government – starting with other components of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development – towards IATI compliance.

“Development staff should now build on this experience and the leadership role they have played to help transition the rest of government towards IATI compliance” said Ms Sanchez. “Finance Canada is the second largest allocator of Canadian aid and the government should now consider how it can build on the momentum started by CIDA. This is in keeping with the government’s whole of government approach, its focus on policy coherence, and its commitment to the Open Government Initiative,” she concluded.

2013 ATI: MORE IS NOT ENOUGH WHEN IT COMES TO AID INFO

Originally posted by Publish What You Fund.

Information about aid spending is steadily becoming more available, but it also needs to become more useful, concludes a report released today by Publish What You Fund.

The results show there is a leading group of organisations that publish large amounts of useful information on their current aid activities. For the first time, a U.S. agency – the Millennium Challenge Corporation – ranks top, scoring 89%, more than double the average score.

The Aid Transparency Index (ATI) report is the industry standard for assessing foreign assistance transparency among the world’s major donors. For the first time, it not only assesses what information is published, but also the usefulness of that information.

For example, a donor that publishes budgets in PDFs is more transparent than one that does not publish them at all – but that information is of limited usefulness, because a PDF is hard to access, analyse and reuse.

Although the world’s largest and most influential providers of aid reaffirmed their commitment to transparency this year – at the G8 and as part of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals framework – more than a third of the organisations ranked still score less than 20%.

This includes large donors, such as France and Japan, which have committed to implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), the only internationally agreed standard for publishing aid data that seeks to make it easier to access, use and understand.

David Hall-Matthews, Director of Publish What You Fund, said: “Open data and transparency are becoming fashionable watch words, but we’re checking if donors are really delivering, looking beyond high-level commitments and long-held reputations. The ATI ranking shows that no matter how many international promises are made, no matter how many speeches there are around openness, a startling amount of organisations are still not delivering on their aid transparency goals. We will continue to encourage organisations to release more data – but more is not enough. We also want to make sure that the information is useful.”

Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance for Timor-Leste, said: “Transparency is about trust – and without trust from our partners, development is much harder.”

Several governments and organisations, including the African Development Bank, Canada, the European Commission, GAVI, UNDP, UNICEF and the U.S. Treasury have made big improvements this year, by publishing more information in accessible and comparable formats.

China comes last, making it the least transparent of the 67 organisations that were assessed in 2013.

The top 27 agencies all publish at least some current information to the agreed IATI standard. Because the data is published in the most open and comparable format, it is easier to access, and also more useful. Organisations receive lower scores for publishing in less useful formats such as PDFs or hard-to-navigate websites, or for not publishing the information consistently.

To see all the findings of the 2013 ATI, please visit: http://ati.publishwhatyoufund.org

Contact:          Nicole Valentinuzzi T: +44 (0)7726 831 197 / +1 (202) 834 7055

nicole.valentinuzzi@publishwhatyoufund.org

Notes:

  1. Publish What You Fund is the global campaign for aid transparency, advocating for a significant increase in the availability and accessibility of comprehensive, timely and comparable aid information. The organisation monitors the transparency of aid donors in order to track progress, encourage further transparency and hold them to account.
  2. The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) has 33 signatory donors committed to publishing to its common standard. These donors account for over 85% of Official Development Finance (ODF).
  3. On Thurs 24 October at 1530 EST, watch the 2013 ATI launch here: http://www.publishwhatyoufund.org/2013-index-livestream/

PRESS RELEASE: AidData’s Newly Released Data Portal Makes Development Finance More Intuitive

aiddataFor Immediate Release

October 29, 2013
Contact: Samantha Custer, 202-705-6970-221-1294 / info@aiddata.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – AidData, a research and innovation lab that seeks to improve development outcomes by making development finance data more accessible and actionable, released the 3.0 version of its aiddata.org portal today during Global Transparency Week.

Building upon previous efforts to track all aid flows, the 3.0 data portal seeks to capture the total resource envelope available to countries to plan for their development. In one interactive interface, policymakers and practitioners are now able to compare data on over $40 trillion in remittances, foreign direct investment, and aid from 90 donor agencies. Private foundation grants and domestic public expenditure from developing countries will also be added in the coming months.

“A perennial challenge for policymakers, practitioners, and civil society groups is joining up large, disparate datasets in order to identify patterns and trends,” AidData Co-Executive Director Brad Parks said.” AidData 3.0 makes it easier for users to collate, visualize, and analyze the aid and development datasets that are most relevant to them.”

“We now have the data and the tools needed to support a policy discussion about the relationships between different development finance flows and real world outcomes, such as whether donors and governments are making it easier for citizens to access local health clinics that provide life-saving medicines.” AidData Co-Executive Director Nancy McGuire Choi said.

With the new data portal, AidData will provide enhanced visualization tools to make the analysis of data on incoming financial flows and development outcomes far more intuitive. The site now allows users to run search queries for specific aid projects or donors, and generates visual dashboards instead of large data tables from these search results. A new state-of-the-art GIS interface allows users to upload their own data, as well as create, save and share maps.

“AidData 3.0 makes it much easier for users to import their own datasets and generate powerful visualizations with multiple subnational data layers,” Parks said. “We look forward to seeing how users will leverage the new capabilities of the platform.”

AidData anticipates that the new data and tools available through AidData 3.0 will enable researchers, policymakers and practitioners to uncover new insights about the distribution and impact of development finance. The ability to export data using the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standardized format facilitates comparability among various data sources and public API access enables others to leverage the data hosted on aiddata.org in their own systems and visualizations.

“The new dashboards, data visualizations, and maps bring to life data previously contained in rows and columns,” Choi said. “It’s a data sandbox with user-friendly tools for both techies and non-techies to explore the policy and research questions of greatest interest to them.”

Transparency in Uganda

Originally posted on Global Development (The Guardian). Written by Mark Tran.

Life has been getting tougher for NGOs in Uganda in recent years, according to Beatrice Nabajja-Mugambe, executive director at Development Research Training (DRT), which combines research and advocacy on poverty.

“The civil society space in Uganda has been narrowing,” she said between chairing sessions at a recent NGO forum on aid effectiveness. “Surveillance has been stepped, phones are being tapped, there has been a wave of robberies and break-ins supported and instigated by the Internal Security Organisation [Uganda's counterintelligence agency] and the police.”

Even as she spoke, the police had surrounded a couple of newspapers after they reported on a supposed assassination plot against opponents to plans by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son succeed him. For Nabajja-Mugambe, this was yet another sign of the government’s growing authoritarian streak, and it sent a chilling message to civil society.

“The Daily Monitor [which has since reopened] is owned by Aga Khan, if the government is prepared to take on someone as powerful, then small organisations have to be cautious,” she said.

Nabajja-Mugambe has been a social activist since 1998, when she finished her master’s degree in gender studies and worked as a volunteer for Action for Development, training women for leadership.

“I was passionate about improving the lives of women,” she said. “I wanted to work for an NGO as I thought it would mean more freedom.”

She then moved to the Uganda Joint Christian Council, where she ensured that civil society had a voice in the legislative process. Finding that too routine and in need of a fresh challenge she went to work for DRT, for the first time, doing research and analysis on social protection. There followed a four-year stint in Zimbabwe before she returned to Uganda in 2010 to rejoin DRT.

A major area of work for DRT is transparency, so DRT is pushing Uganda to join the open government partnership, an initiative started in September 2011, seeking to increase openness in government practices or operations. It calls for open, transparent, accountable, participatory and inclusive governance. Uganda, which has been ruled by Museveni for the past 27 years, is notoriously corrupt. Last year, Transparency International ranked it first for corruption among the five countries comprising the East African Community.

“What has happened under [Museveni] is that graft has become normalised,” said one Ugandan. “If someone in power does not enrich themselves, people think he is stupid.”

One DRT project involves transparency efforts at the grassroots level. It is working with citizens in five poor districts – Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Katakwi and Kotido – in north and eastern Uganda (the country is divided into 111 districts) to train “community facilitators” to track money that comes into their area and see whether it is being spent as it should be.

“We are calling on governments, civil society and the private sector to open up,” said Nabajja-Mugambe, “to show us what they are doing and to focus on extreme poverty.”

Clear thinking

What does transparency mean to you?

Transparency means a value and practice of doing business (as a government, organisation – both private and civic, individual) in an open, participatory and consultative way – this calls for sharing of information and allowing feedback.

Why is access to information important in development?

At a personal, individual level, access to information enables me to be informed about what is going on around me and my family, and also to take certain decisions on what to do or not do – information about the food we should eat to stay healthy, the schools and universities where I should take my children, what my local authorities are doing to maintain drainange, roads, etc.

At a community level, access to information is important both for the same reasons and also for the community to use the information and take collective actions. For example, as some parts of Kampala usually experience floods, the community can decide to call a meeting of local leaders to explain why this happens. But they probably do not know that the city authority has a responsibility to prevent floods and manage them so that they do not affect people.

Likewise, the government and policymakers should grant access to information on what is happening with its citizens and public – politically, socially, economically – so that they plan accordingly. Planning should be based on evidence and information.

What is the one piece of information you most want released?

By government: all information about oil, gas and natural resources. By the private sector: all information about their returns and tax obligations. By aid agencies – information about the amount actually spent in receiving countries and on technical assistance in receiving countries.

OGP: Opportunities and Limitations

Written by of The Sunlight Foundation.

It’s been two years since the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was first announced. As Sunlight shares recommendations for the US’s OGP National Action Plan, we’re looking forward to attending and participating in the upcoming summit in London.

OGP has demonstrated explosive growth, with the initial 8 founding countries expanding to 60 in a very short time, and more likely to be announced soon. This rapid expansion is an affirmation of government officials’ desire to grapple with transparency issues, and demonstrates an appetite — particularly from the public —  for “open government” and making it more accessible to the people it serves. OGP has been important in helping governments move in that direction, particularly Brazil’s passing a new FOI law and the US committing to implement the EITI.

OGP itself has been quite open in discussing its limitations, and no doubt there will be more of that at the next meeting. But it’s important, in advance of the upcoming summit, to offer a few observations about OGP’s structural limitations to provide context for the new national action plans.

Many of the concerns and observations here are grounded in Sunlight’s experience with the Obama administration since 2009. It has taught us that it is important to find the right posture in our response to the Open Government Partnership — to take advantage of the opportunities we’re presented with, while at the same time holding government’s feet to the fire.

First, in designing an international initiative that governments would be willing to sign onto, OGP has permitted governments to define for themselves what openness means. The eligibility criteria do set some minimum standards for entry, but those minimal standards (like having an FOI law) only define which countries can join the initiative, and don’t guide countries’ participation, or the way they are evaluated. The drive to build national action plans through a “consultative” process is an effort to overcome this limitation (that governments pick their own commitments), but consultation is often just a few pre-planned, post-hoc conversations with civil society groups.

OGP is built around countries’ national action plans which are voluntary, self-imposed, often enormously vague (for example, the US committed to using technology to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, an unmeasurably vague commitment), and only delivered every two years. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) —  OGP’s system for measuring progress on action plan commitments — accepts governments’ commitments at face value, essentially providing no evaluation at all beyond the terms that governments set for themselves.

The OGP national action plan process does have all sorts of benefits, such as creating conversations and international connections where they didn’t exist before. Sunlight has certainly benefitted from our frequent meetings with White House officials throughout the OGP process, and we assume governments and outside groups around the world have shared that experience.

The National Action Plans to date have committed themselves chiefly to low-hanging fruit (like the frequent, “open data” commitment), resulting in a bias against fundamental questions of power, like military and state power, or money in politics. OGP’s incentive structure to join the overall effort prioritizes the easy questions over the hard ones.

But political reality has shown us that the openness we are demanding from modern democracies has rarely developed through the good will of officials who hold power. Access to information laws, national regulatory systems, and accountable public processes — the landscape of government transparency that defines our public sphere — have often come only after intense struggle, revolution, scandal, elections, and public organizing. Voluntary commitments — particularly given their vagueness —  can play a productive role, but they’re no replacement for the rule of law. And OGP commitments do not have the force of law, or even a commitment that extends beyond the term of the current head of state.

The OGP requires extensive consultation with civil society in the development of their plans. But this emphasis on consultation, with no guarantee of civil society priorities being represented in country plans, leaves civil society organizations (CSOs) in a difficult situation. CSOs need to distinguish between productive meetings that may lead to useful outcomes, and meetings designed to legitimize whatever governments have already decided to do.

I suspect that in the end some of these questions may be unanswerable ones, because the action plans’ primary purpose is to serve as an organizing instrument among countries. Sometimes National Action Plans will cause important new reforms (like the EITI commitment from the US), and sometimes they will not, but in a sense the action plans’ primary purpose is to build a movement, and to strengthen cultural expectations for government transparency. If that endeavor is successful, it would be a small price to pay if we give up verifiable rigor in the evaluations of countries’ action plans. But we should also be clear about the depth of our expectations.

~

Just as Sunlight has done domestically, internationally we’re working hard with allies and peers to raise new expectations for how government transparency should function, even in the face of often disappointing plans. We’ve encouraged the proliferation of open data initiatives in the US, and done what we can to strengthen our expectations for how they function internationally. That’s the motivation behind the Open Data Policy Guidelines, the Procurement Open Data Guidelines, the Global Open Data Initiative, and OpeningParliament, to name a few.

We’ve also gained a new appreciation for the importance of moving beyond voluntary commitments, working to enact laws to ensure permanence and oversight. And we’ve deepened our commitment to dealing with fundamental issues of fairness and power, like money in politics, since they’re the issues that are the least likely to benefit from internal pressure, and are in need of civil society attention.

Many of these same approaches are valid for OGP. We all must push governments to go beyond voluntary commitments to enact legal requirements and standards for governmental openness.  We must help governments set priorities based on citizen’s needs. We must push officials to recognize their responsibility to address fundamental issues of power, like surveillance, national security, and the influence of money in politics. And we have to balance our own priorities, seeking consensus when appropriate, without giving up on our ability to judge the world against our ideals.

As we all figure out the right role OGP can play in our work, we should be mindful of the opportunities and limitations it presents, so that we can use it for all it’s worth.

OGP2