This post is written by Martin Akerman at the United Nations Population Fund.
Reporting on complex delivery chains and being able to track funds from one organisation to another is central to improving development cooperation effectiveness.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is working with a consortium of donor countries and development agencies, led by the Netherlands, on a new traceability pilot. At the 2016 IATI Members Assembly, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, the United States, Belgium, Finland, Publish What You Fund, UNFPA, UNICEF, and the African Development Bank met to establish how to use IATI data to increase the traceability of activities through multilateral organisations.
UNFPA joined IATI and has been publishing data on activities to its Standard since 2012. Launched in 2008, IATI enables the publication of machine-readable, timely, comprehensive and forward-looking development information in a common, open format. The rapid increase in IATI publishers (today at nearly 500) has allowed data users to access a growing share of the world’s development cooperation activities via IATI’s online Registry and Datastore. IATI’s Standard has also evolved to accommodate a wider range of data user’s needs. These include the automated use of IATI data to populate key information and decision-making systems; the reporting of humanitarian assistance during emergencies; and harmonisation of data from all publishers to common frameworks such as the OECD-DAC, the International Conference on Population and Development and the Sustainable Development Goals among others.
IATI has empowered many development actors and data aggregators to establish open data portals (for example Sweden’s Openaid.se and the Netherland’s OpenNL). These are built on the IATI Standard and linked to the IATI Registry to streamline information collection, reduce traditional manual data entry, and allow for more efficient coordination of development activities over time. In a growing number of cases, these portals have become the norm for reporting and communicating development activities and their outcomes within ministries, parliaments and congressional bodies. The need for machine-readable data from implementing partners – including multilateral organisations and pooled funding vehicles – has become one of the most significant hurdles donors face as they look to streamline information sharing and reduce manual data entry.
The Netherlands has been leading automated traceability efforts of their financing through IATI with a handful of NGOs and introduced mandatory IATI publishing for most activities funded by the government this year. In May, they set sights on a seemingly more ambitious target and approached several UN agencies to come up with a strategy that would allow contributions to multi-donor funds, specifically core support to UN agencies, to be linked to development outcomes. Since launching their data portal in 2014, Sweden has also communicated several obstacles they face in having to manually enter data related to core contributions to multilateral organisations, including UNFPA.
In establishing this traceability pilot, we will seek to overcome these issues and aim to reduce the need for manual reporting. Working with the consortium, our goal is to eliminate ad-hoc reports over time and increase the flow of information from one agency to another automatically through IATI. Here are our three keys to success:
The first is to establish how and in what specific marker one organisation will be referencing another.
The second is to create a pool funding arm (activity) for each multilateral organisation that is able to reference the core contributions of bilateral donors.
The third and final is to make sure that all core and pool-funded activities and related results show a relationship to the established pool funding activity.
This multi-stakeholder pilot promises to streamline information collection, help avoid double-reporting, reduce traditional manual data entry and allow for more efficient coordination of development activities. We look forward to providing updates on our progress and in the meantime encourage you to visit the UNFPA Transparency Portal.