Information and stories about aid effectiveness and reform

Greenland's Foreign Aid
Many countries around the world benefit from foreign aid, but few rely on it for their livelihood. Greenland is one of the few countries that would struggle to exist at all without it, as Greenland’s foreign aid is essential to its economy. Each year, Denmark, Greenland’s former colonial ruler, gives the island nation about $591 million in subsidies. That represents about 60% of the Greenlandic government’s budget and comes to more than $10,000 for every person living in Greenland. The subsidy, however, is not the cure-all Denmark might hope it to be.

Greenland’s Foreign Aid and Social World

Greenland is a land of contradictions. It is the largest island in the world, yet has a population of fewer than 60,000 people. Its average income is about $33,000, placing it far above the international average, yet Greenland also suffers from a suicide rate seven times higher than in the United States, and a poverty rate of 16.2% as of 2015. Traditional practices remain the norm in many parts of the country. Fishing accounts for 90% of Greenland’s exports, and dog sleds are still a common sight in the island’s undeveloped interior.

How can Greenland receive so much aid and still suffer from such social ills? Part of the answer lies in international politics. Although Greenland is nominally independent, many of its politics are still under the control of Denmark. Worried about losing influence in Greenland, Denmark has often blocked other countries’ efforts to invest in Greenland.

For example, Denmark raised objections to a $12.1 million aid package to Greenland from the U.S. in 2020. While politicians raised some valid concerns about the package (particularly in light of President Trump’s tactless 2019 offer to buy Greenland from Denmark), the fact remains that foreign investment would almost certainly enrich Greenlanders. This would be especially relevant if Greenlanders, rather than Danes, were the ones to make decisions about foreign aid.

Potential Wealth in Greenland

On the other hand, Greenland itself enjoys huge sources of potential wealth. The island is strategically located in the arctic region. Greenland also possesses valuable mineral deposits in its interior, which global warming will eventually uncover. Unfortunately, Denmark’s reluctance to permit foreign aid, and a lack of local capital, have prevented Greenland from taking advantage of these resources.

Greenland’s dependence on Danish money is a major source of instability for the country. Were the Danish government to change its policy, Greenland’s fragile economy would collapse. Greenland’s reliance on fish also creates uncertainty, since fish prices tend to fluctuate quickly. Economic development, as well as investment from a variety of countries, would remove much of the country’s economic uncertainty.

The goal of foreign investment should be to make countries prosperous and, eventually, self-sufficient. Greenland, however, shows few signs of becoming more economically independent from Denmark. Greenland’s GDP has grown very slowly and actually shrank between 2013 and 2014, despite Denmark’s funding. Danish aid to Greenland seems to have become an absent-minded gift, rather than an aid program with a clear purpose and goals.

Consequences of Denmark’s Aid

If Denmark sticks to the status quo of offering aid but preventing others from doing the same, Greenland will continue to suffer from its high poverty rate. Denmark will still have to pay huge sums of cash to keep the Greenlandic economy afloat.

However, if Denmark were to permit more investment in Greenland and put more emphasis on helping Greenland achieve self-sufficiency, Greenland would become wealthier and its economy would be more stable. This would in turn benefit Denmark because Greenland would eventually no longer need so much financial support. Whatever Greenland’s foreign aid future holds, it seems clear that it can do better than the status quo.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

India's Foreign Aid
The Republic of India receives millions of dollars each year in foreign aid. This money goes toward ending poverty and improving living standards. However, as India develops and modernizes, the government has started to lend a helping hand to poorer nations across the world. Many see India’s foreign aid as both a tool for diplomacy and an act of good faith. As in the words of India’s Development Partnership, its approach to foreign aid is, “shaped by India’s struggle for independence and solidarity with other colonized and developing countries and the inspiring leadership of Mahatma Gandhi…” The nation is transitioning from a recipient to a donor, as the nation often gives more in foreign aid than it receives.

By The Numbers

The Indian Government allocated $1.32 billion for foreign aid in its 2019-2020 budget year (around 0.3% of the budget). This amount follows a trend of India drastically stepping up its foreign aid over the past decade. The budget went from around $500 million in 2010 to a peak of $1.5 billion in 2015. Despite a three-year slump in funding, the central government is now stepping back up to the plate. The main focus of India’s foreign aid centers around the development and modernization of its recipients.

Most of India’s foreign aid goes to countries in Asia and Africa, as it seeks to improve relations with its neighbors and assert its global presence. The nations India is providing aid to include Myanmar ($56 million), Bangladesh ($24.5 million) and Bhutan ($392.7 million). Aid that these nations receive has the goal of promoting regional stability and creating higher living standards. The Indian Government has also taken more interest in Indian Ocean countries such as Mauritius ($161 million), Sri Lanka ($35 million) and The Maldives (~$81 million) to increase Indian presence in the Indian Ocean.

How India’s Foreign Aid Helps

India’s foreign aid goes to a variety of projects such as infrastructure, agriculture and energy. The nation has invested billions in infrastructure projects in nations like Nepal and Afghanistan, such as hydroelectric plants, dams and schools. Famously, India and Afghanistan finished the Salma Dam, renamed the Afghan-India Friendship Dam. The Dam cost India around $300 million and provides hydroelectric power and irrigated farmland to the surrounding area. Additionally, India gave millions in foreign aid to Caribbean nations to improve their renewable/clean energy sectors that combat pollution and environmental challenges.

India is also heavily active in humanitarian efforts and disaster relief, frequently giving out loans, medical supplies and other types of assistance. The Brookings Institute has even called the nation “The Neighborhood First Responder,” helping with disaster relief in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Humanitarian aid has gone to nations like Fiji after Cyclone Winston hit the nation in 2016. Recently, India has helped combat the COVID-19 pandemic through monetary aid, donating food and distributing vaccines. Brazil, which faces a vaccine shortage, received 2 million doses from the Indian government.

Indian-US Relations

India is a prime example of how U.S. Foreign Aid benefits all sides. Nations like the United States have invested heavily in India and continue to help the government combat problems that plague the nation. As a result, India and the U.S. are now close allies and often cooperate on shared goals such as combating environmental challenges and ending extreme poverty. The two nations also cooperate with each other in international organizations like the U.N. and IMF. Both nation’s economies benefit from a strong India, with bilateral trade totaling around $149 billion. A diverse array of U.S. businesses operate in India, from energy and infrastructure business to ones involving technology and entertainment.

– Malcolm Schulz
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating Childhood Poverty
Compassion International is a child-advocacy ministry that pairs people with children living in areas of extreme poverty in order to release those children from all of poverty’s aspects. What makes the organization so unique is its strict focus on children, with the hopes of eliminating poverty in their lives by the time they reach adulthood. Its impact has been massive with a high success rate: children in its programs are 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities and 40% more likely to finish secondary education. Moreover, they are more likely to spend thousands of hours in safe programs. The organization that is garnering recent attention from professional athletes has been working toward eliminating childhood poverty for years.

How Compassion International Began

Rev. Everett Swanson founded Compassion International. He was troubled by the masses of war orphans he saw living on the streets in South Korea. Another morning, Rev. Swanson saw city workers throwing rags into the backs of trucks, which turned out to be the frozen bodies of the orphans on the street. When Rev. Swanson returned to the United States, he told people of what he saw and encouraged them to donate so they could sponsor the orphans and work toward eliminating childhood poverty. Within 10 years, Compassion International helped 108 orphanages and homes in South Korea by donating funds to purchase rice and fuel.

Compassion International’s Mission

The nonprofit uses a ministry-based program in order to release children from poverty. This includes helping with child development, which the organization believes will provide the children with the skills to succeed. Compassion International’s programs begin as early as when the child is in the womb, aiming to eradicate poverty from their lives by young adulthood. Primarily, the work it does is through child sponsorship, but it has implemented initiatives that help babies and mothers in order to develop future leaders and meet critical needs as well.

The Fill the Stadium Initiative

Compassion International works with thousands of churches in 25 countries across the globe. One initiative it is running in the United States currently is the Fill the Stadium initiative. Due to COVID-19, 70,000 children and their families who are in Compassion Programs are in extreme poverty. Athletes such as Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum and Jaccob Slavin have donated and joined the leadership team, encouraging fans to donate if able. The recommended donation amount is $500, around the same price as a game-day experience for a group of four. About $500 provides a year’s worth of essential food, nutritional supplements, hygiene essentials and medical screenings for COVID-19 for a family and their children. So far, the Fill the Stadium Initiative has “filled” 47,587 seats to provide essential care and support for these families in crisis, raising $23 million from athletes and national leaders. Due to COVID-19, a halt to in-person sporting events has occurred. The hope is that the money a family would spend on a game would go toward those in need instead.

Former Quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and team member for the initiative, Carson Palmer pledged to donate $300,000 and challenged others to match his donation. “This is an incredible opportunity for American families to help children who are in dire straits and truly fighting for their lives,” said Palmer in an interview with Fill the Stadium.

A Look into Compassion International’s Impact

In 2020, Compassion International surpassed $1 billion for the first time in the history of the ministry. That year alone, Compassion International served 2.2 million children across 8,000 frontline partners. Since 1952, the sponsorship programs have impacted the lives of over 4.2 million children.

Because of the work of Compassion International, partners across the world have obtained access to hygiene kits, lifesaving surgeries, academic scholarships, classes, bathrooms, emergency food and water, electricity and countless other life-saving services. The organization will continue to strive toward eliminating childhood poverty, and especially aiding children the pandemic has hit hard.

– Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

Aid Transparency Index Improves Development Data
Publish What You Fund: The Global Campaign for Assistance and Development Transparency, an NGO watchdog, created the Aid Transparency Index in 2010 to compare the levels of transparency among aid agencies. Today, it is the only independent measurement for transparency among major development agencies. It aims to improve the efficacy of development assistance by refining the quality of data that donors make public.

How Does it Work?

Donors that are part of the Aid Transparency Index have to meet at least three of four requirements, which are:

  1. The organization has to be in majority public ownership, with one or more governments as shareholders.
  2. Its main purpose must be either to provide development finance and/or aid across the world or to oversee the administration of these resources.
  3. It must play a leading role in setting finance and/or aid policy in its home country, sector or region.
  4. Its budget or resources must be at least $1 billion per year.

The donor’s commitment to transparency is measured by the existence of legislation or disclosure policies, intentions for International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) publication and the promotion of information access, use and re-use.

The Aid Transparency Index takes into account 35 indicators to monitor aid transparency, which have been selected based on the IATI Standard. The Index collects most of its information from organization websites, the IATI Registry or from national data platforms. Two of the 35 indicators collect information from other data sources for assessment purposes.

The 2020 Index

The latest index revealed that there has been a great improvement in the donors’ overall transparency since 2018. More than half of the donors on the list now rank as “good” or “very good.” This results from an increase in data quantity and quality in the IATI Standard, which has made data more centralized and accessible.

Eleven donors are now in the “really good” (meaning in between the “good” and “very good”) category, which constitutes an increase of four from 2018. Also, 15 donors are now in the category of “good,” two more than two years ago. These are the organizations with the highest ranks in the 2020 Aid Transparency Index:

  1. Asian Development Bank (ADB) — Sovereign Portfolio with a ranking of 98.0/100.
  2. World Bank, International Development Association (IDA) with a ranking of 97.1/100.
  3. UNDP with a ranking of 96.6/100.
  4. African Development Bank (AfDB) – Sovereign Portfolio with a ranking of 95.5/100.
  5. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with a ranking of 95.4/100.
  6. UNICEF with a ranking of 92.9/100.
  7. The United States, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) with a ranking of 92.1/100.
  8. Global Fund with a ranking of 86.5/100.
  9. The United Kingdom, Department for International Development (DFID) with a ranking of 85.4/100.
  10. Canada, Global Affairs with a ranking of 80.9/100.

Addressing Shortfalls

Despite these improvements, gaps still exist between donor publications and their projected outcomes. Many organizations publish their objectives, but only a minority also publish information on the projects’ performances and evaluations. As a result, there are limitations to measuring the effectiveness and value of financial spending in development assistance.

So, to further improve development aid data, Publish What You Fund provides a series of recommendations to donor countries. This includes sharing more information on project results, publishing project budget documents and increasing the participation of stakeholders in partner countries. Altogether, this will contribute to building trust and increasing available information.

Why is it Important?

Today, billions of dollars of aid and assistance are going toward addressing the COVID-19 crisis, which highlights the crucial role that aid transparency plays and how it can contribute to better results when it is formalized.

“Aid transparency is a key way to improve the efficiency of resource allocation, coordination of the response, and for donors to learn from one another’s interventions,” says Gary Forster, the CEO of Publish What You Fund. “The Index provides an illustration of what’s possible when transparency is valued and institutionalized.”

Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous communities in Canada

The Canadian Constitution recognizes three Indigenous communities — First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Here are five of the many Indigenous-led organizations in Canada, collectively working to create success and prosperity for Indigenous communities.

5 Canadian Organizations for Indigenous Prosperity

  1. First Nations Information Governance CentreThe First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) is working to achieve data sovereignty. With support from regional partners and a special mandate from the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in Assembly (Resolution #48, December 2009), the FNIGC collects and uses data to “build culturally relevant portraits of the lives of First Nations people and the communities they live in.” Their motto, “our data, our stories, our future” reflects their vision of Indigenous stories being told by Indigenous people, for Indigenous people.
  2. IndspireIndspire is using the gift of learning to help provide academic success and long-term prosperity with support through financial aid, scholarships/bursaries, awards, mentoring and physical resources.
  3. Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada – Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada (AFOA) is creating a community of Indigenous professionals by supporting successful self-determination through “improving the management skills of those responsible for the stewardship of Indigenous resources.” This includes aid in management, finance and governance.
  4. Reconciliation CanadaReconciliation Canada facilitates the engagement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with meaningful conversations on reconciliation and the lived experiences of Indigenous people. They aim to inspire positive change and understanding. At present, the programs and initiatives offered by the charity are Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy, Reconciliation Dialogue Workshops, interactive community outreach activities and Reconciliation Canada.
  5. First Nations Child and Family Caring SocietyThe Caring Society supports First Nations children, youth and families. The organization has been able to provide 250,000 services and products to Indigenous children by putting Indigenous children and families first.

These five organizations are just some of many who are working to support success and prosperity for Indigenous communities in Canada. Their work helps blaze a path for a brighter future for Indigenous people and the country alike.

– Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey
Turkey is a nation that sits on Europe’s gateway to the Middle East. The country is physically located between Greece and Bulgaria on the European front and Syria, Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. Concerning rates of absolute poverty in Turkey, the numbers have decreased from 36.5% to 9.3%, since 2003. Also, Turkey ranks as the 19th largest economy in the world. However, recent financial challenges are threatening that status and potentially, future progress. Before there was a need to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey tackled the Syrian refugee crisis. In this line of action, Turkey took on the responsibility of integrating and assimilating 4 million refugees. Fortunately, foreign organizations like the World Bank have made innovations in poverty eradication possible, empowering Turkey to pursue avenues of poverty eradication through domestic ventures.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Rural Poor)

Policymakers in Turkey are aware of the weakest sector, namely agriculture. Both geographically and socially, workers in the agriculture sector in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, experience the highest poverty rate in the country. This figure is reported at 46.6%.

Development projects have been proposed by Turkey and are supported by a specialized U.N. agency called the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The rural poor have been receiving aid for the last 30 years from the IFAD, amounting to about $189 of $661 million, spent across 10 projects. Notably, this aid has impacted 1.3 million households. Importantly, the IFAD has targeted rural infrastructure, which has been their greatest investment. The construction of roads in villages, as well as investments in irrigation, led to the improvement of markets and mobility. In a broad analysis, these elements in society help improve the quality of life for the rural poor. Moreover, it is the rural poor who are most affected by inequality and a lack of resources.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Refugees)

The Emergency Social Safety Net program (ESSN) was implemented in November 2016, to provide refugees with their essential needs via monthly cash transfers. Innovations in poverty eradication in Turkey are crucial as poverty affects about 76% of ESSN refugees. The Facility for Refugees administers ESSN in Turkey and the E.U. (i.e. its member states) also have a financial stake in the program. This makes the ESSN the largest-ever humanitarian aid program financed by the E.U.

The World Bank also plays a major role in poverty eradication efforts and calculations in Turkey. The World Bank recently reported that the implementation of phone surveys is underway, to help mediate the refugee population. As a result, Turkey is now able to track levels of poverty and assimilation among refugees within five subnational regions.

Ultimately Turkey has the right programs and the right international bodies in place to continue trying to combat poverty. Yet, poverty in Turkey remains complex. In addition to the reality that COVID-19 disproportionately affects poorer communities, Turkey must be mindful of integrating millions of refugees with different backgrounds, into Turkish society. Having fewer resources to do so, the government agenda necessitates a shift to a focus on the economic crisis.

– Ilke Arkan
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

South Korea AidNorth and South Korea have been separated since the end of World War II when the Soviet Union took control of the northern half of the peninsula and the United States took over the South. The two halves of Korea have been at war with each other since.

North Korea has since become a nation of poverty. The greatest threats to North Korea are its water pollution, waterborne diseases, deforestation, soil erosion and degradation. In 2017, one in five North Koreans did not have access to clean water and 41 percent of people were undernourished. Since the country’s poverty level has been increasing, North Korea has been reliant on international aid. Recently, South Korea has announced it will be sending $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

The good news about South Korea’s $8 million aid is that it expected to begin reducing tension between the opposing governments while reducing poverty levels in the North. North Korea previously chose not to accept aid from the South. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is now open to receiving the aid due to the current harvest being the worst in the past decade and the current drought problem, which is currently the worst it has been in over three decades.

Expected Benefits

  • Decrease in Poverty LevelsFood aid will help the 40 percent of North Koreans that are suffering from severe food shortages. It will also provide access to clean water and reduce the number of people affected by waterborne diseases.
  • Vaccines and Medicine Will Also Be Provided – South Korea’s $8 million aid will also include $3.5 million in vaccines and medicine. This secondary aid is supplying treatments for malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It will also include other medicines for the population.
  • Tensions Between the North and South Should Improve – Despite tensions between the North and South, South Korea is still willing to give aid to the North regardless of the political situation between the two halves. This aid is letting the North know that South Korea is not willing to let those in need suffer.

Taking a Stand

Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since the end of World War II. In a press release, the South Korea Unification Ministry made it clear to the public that its tension with North Korea was not a reason to deny the country humanitarian aid. South Korea’s aid will begin to lessen those tensions. It will also provide food and medical aid to the suffering population and begin to reduce the poverty levels.

Most countries have been hesitant to send international aid to North Korea due to their involvement in missile and nuclear weapons developments. South Korea is taking a stand and using compassion to state that political issues do not affect the fact that almost half of the North Korean population is starving and in need of help.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Pixabay

Foreign Aid TransparencyThe success of foreign aid is often shadowed by misconceptions and myths ranging from effectiveness to large overestimates of how much money is spent on aid every year. In an effort to combat some of these myths, foreign aid transparency has become a central issue both globally and domestically. Understanding where funds are being spent is important to donors and citizens as will be explained below. Keep reading for a few facts about foreign aid transparency and where you can find more information on how your nation’s dollars are being used to provide aid to the developing world.

Why Transparency Matters

Transparency includes knowing how much money is spent, where it is spent, who spends it and the overall impact and results. Global foreign aid transparency matters because as nations try to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, this measure will act as the foundation for aid effectiveness and accountability. Aid transparency is important to donor and recipient governments as well as civil society. As citizens who pay taxes, it is reassuring to know exactly where foreign aid funds are being spent and this transparency encourages greater support for foreign aid.

In order to coordinate aid efforts and prevent donors from spending more funds in certain areas and less in others, transparency is key. When donor countries and nonprofits share what they have already spent or are planning to spend, other donors can coordinate their funding off of these numbers and reduce overlap. It is important for donors to research and discuss their funding plans with other nations to achieve greater impact with their limited resources.

Recipients of aid benefit from transparency as well because it is often difficult to know how much aid is given and where it is spent in their own countries. This, in turn, makes it more challenging for governments to decide how much of their own budget to spend on certain problems. Additionally, when aid recipients are not able to show foreign aid money in their budgets or plans for the country, it is much more challenging for citizens and parliaments to hold leaders accountable and corruption can become an issue.

Increasing Accountability with the Aid Transparency Index

One way transparency has improved in recent years is through Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index. This organization uses research and advocacy to improve transparency mainly through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The IATI commits donors to publish all foreign aid data under a common standard that can be compared and accessed easily.

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index was recently launched on June 20. It is the only independent measure of aid transparency among major development agencies and governments making it a valuable tool for foreign aid. This year’s index evaluates 45 countries on a scale from very good to very poor transparency.

This organization uses a relatively complex and detailed methodology for monitoring transparency and scoring agencies. For the most recent Index, 35 indicators were selected that drew upon IATI standards and whether they were upheld. These indicators were then weighted and split into five categories. Organization planning and commitments to transparency are 15 percent of the score, finance and budgets are 25 percent, project attributes, development data and performance are equally split into 20 percent of the score as well. The website also includes a comparison chart on how agencies have improved or declined and extensive reports explaining the Index’s findings.

How to Evaluate a Country’s Transparency

The Index is one very detailed way citizens of major donor countries can easily check their country’s score and whether or not their aid agencies are being transparent. One must simply click on the agency they are interested in to view scores in each category, how they have changed in recent years and recommendations for years to come.

Besides the Index, for individuals in the U.S., there are currently two separate dashboards for USAID and the State Department to share where aid dollars are spent. These can be found at ForeingAssistance.gov and Foreign Aid Explorer. This year, the U.S. was included in the “good” category on the Aid Transparency Index meaning there is still room for improvement.

In 2016, Congress passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) that established requirements for these agencies to publish foreign assistance data. One final provision suggested that USAID and the State Department combine their data into one dashboard by the end of the fiscal year 2018. It is yet to be seen whether this will happen or not but it could be one way of boosting U.S. foreign aid into the very good category for next year’s index.

These are some of the ways that aid transparency has improved in recent years and why it is such a crucial issue for donors, recipients and civil society.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr