UNDP wishes to provide comments on the report prepared by PBD, and begins by sharing some broad thoughts on the report from the UN perspective.
We would recommend that any significant changes in governance should consider the mission of IATI as reflected in major agreements of the member states including, inter-alia, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Agenda of Action, the Grand Bargain and the recently released draft report of the Secretary-General titled Repositioning the UN development System to Deliver on the 2030 Agenda – Ensuring a Better Future for All. In his report, the Secretary-General made a very clear commitment on transparency that will have far-reaching impact on the role and influence of IATI, calling for “Reinforced transparency on agency-specific expenditures and results through system-wide enrolment into the International Aid Transparency Initiative”, an outcome for which UNDP has been advocating for some time. With the expansion of IATI to ultimately include the majority of the multilateral organizations and potentially more of its development partners as members, management arrangements in place should be able to support the membership expansion, swiftly guiding those agencies in adopting the IATI standard and in promoting IATI values and utility. The necessary political leadership to mobilize and provide support to such types of members is one that the current Secretariat has clearly demonstrated it can deliver.
It should also be borne in mind that IATI emerged from the effective development cooperation discussions (Accra forum, 2008) and was revalidated by the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) forum 2011 as the transparency and accountability mechanism that supports the goals of the GPEDC. The GPEDC has a biennial monitoring exercise in which IATI informs the analysis of transparency (Indicator #4 of the Monitoring Framework). It would be problematic to inform the GPEDC only after the fact that IATI is about to undergo major and potentially disruptive institutional changes, some of them quite radical from where IATI has stood since its important endorsement in Busan. In this context, we would suggest that any decision on the future of IATI should not take place in isolation of the GPEDC decision making processes. The GPEDC Steering Committee takes place in Dhaka on 24-25 October when progress on the Nairobi Outcome Document (see section 77) and the 2-year Work Plan of the Global Partnership will be discussed, and this would be an opportunity to brief and seek the views of the GPEDC on this matter.
The report leans strongly in favour of creating a new independent entity for IATI, removing it from the current model in which UNDP and member states can together ensure financial austerity and credibility within the initiative. The legal agreements which currently allow members to provide contributions to a UN-affiliated organisation would need to be renegotiated, and it is a strong possibility that many of its current member organisations would be unable to pay contributions to a newly established entity. Careful review of the legal implications in respect of fundraising would need to be undertaken.
Specific comments on the recommendations
UNDP broadly supports recommendations 1-7, 9-11, subject to clarification of some issues and minor refinements. Recommendation 8 will be difficult to administer and may cause acrimony among the partner country caucus; this process would need clearly articulated criteria for making decisions on allocations, and support from a third party to implement the process.
In relation to recommendation 12 UNDP would in fact support the appointment of an external Chair particularly in the event that members favour an option of an independent Secretariat. In our view high level political support within IATI’s internal structure is critical. The role played by UNDP through its large country, regional and global presence and work directly with partner country governments to promote the IATI Standard and bring new members has been fundamental to the remarkable expansion of the initiative over the last years.
Regarding Recommendation 14, our opinion on this is dependent on the outcome of decisions of members around hosting. Location of the host is less important than the functions the Secretariat is expected to deliver, and the beneficiaries it is expected to serve.
Secretariat and hosting arrangements, Recommendation 13
UNDP does not support the options in Recommendation 13. In formulating these options, authors have not given sufficient recognition to the benefits of being hosted by an international organisation, such as the financial stability during many lengthy periods when income has been insufficient to pay staff; legitimacy of the hosting organisation; and ability to rely on existing legal and financial frameworks. UNDP shares the view that the needs of IATI have changed since the original consortium configuration was established, but argues that changes can be made in a way that strengthens and invigorates the Secretariat and presents significantly less risk of costly disruption than the options recommended. Our strong recommendation would be to include a fifth option for consideration by members - namely a slimmed down version of the current consortium based on the evolving needs of IATI. This fifth option should outline a secretariat that has the necessary technical capacities of staff and the ability to engage with growing numbers of multilateral agencies soon expected to join. Ultimately, the Secretariat should match in its functionality the nature and specific operational arrangements of the majority of members it serves. In this regard, not departing too dramatically from the current model, but improving its effectiveness and cutting costs, would be important.
In regard to a key question around funding of the initiative, the report includes estimated member contribution amounts of around $2.3-2.5m per annum which falls short of each of the budgets presented over the past four years and failure to attract funding from other sources would leave a deficit in future years. It would be important to very carefully consider different funding models that would mitigate this risk.
As a general comment, UNDP sees the need for additional information on the hosting options proposed. In our view, this should include a thorough examination of the costs, risks and legal implications of each of the proposals so that members can understand all the implications on IATI’s future, both medium and long-term, before making such a decision. Ensuring that good practices and institutional knowledge and capacities will continue to expand and that transparency will remain a core driver of effective development cooperation and of the 2030 Agenda are common responsibilities that UNDP is committed to further supporting.