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Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development
The Brookings Institution
There is a consensus that transparency is vital for aid effectiveness. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this consensus has existed for many years, yet transparency is still considered inadequate. New tools have opened up opportunities for change and reduced the cost of providing information, but changes in agency culture and incentives and high-level leadership are still needed to make progress. In some instances, there is a fear of the exposure created by a commitment to transparency. In other instances, efforts to promote transparency have fizzled with high costs of reporting and little use of the information collected. As the number of institutions involved in development rises, the benefits and challenges of greater transparency rise. The old ideas of centralized, unique databases are giving way to new ideas of decentralized, real-time information that can be merged with other data, presented in compelling visual ways, validated and enriched with feedback from beneficiaries, and systematically used by a wide range of stakeholders. There are three big gaps in transparency. At the global level, data is needed on large new players like non-DAC and private donors. At the recipient country level, the gaps between needs and resources must be identified. Finally, accountability of recipient governments and donors can be strengthened through beneficiary feedback and project evaluation.