Members' Consultation on review of IATI's institutional arrangements - FEEDBACK REQUESTED BY MONDAY SEPT 18TH

(Annelise Parr) #1

This discussion is posted on behalf of the IATI Governing Board and deals with the important work underway regarding the review of IATI’s institutional arrangements.

As you know, Powered by Data was hired to develop recommendations for members on the long-term institutional arrangements for IATI from September 2018, when current hosting arrangements come to an end. I am pleased to share with you their final report, which has been posted on IATI’s website and will be presented at the Members’ Assembly together with the Board’s recommendations, for discussion and decision.

Download Powered by Data’s final report in English and French now.

The report is an important contribution to the future governance of IATI, and on behalf of the Board I would like to thank all the people – members of IATI, of the TAG, of the Secretariat - who have taken time to talk with the consultants and provide input to their work.

The Board welcomes members feedback on the consultants’ report. We propose to consider the recommendations in two categories:

  •   Recommendations that can be implemented while the current hosting arrangement is still in place: 1-3, 5, 6, 8 and 12
  •   Recommendations that are closely linked to the hosting review and should be considered alongside the options for the review: 4, 7, 9-11, 13 and 14

In coming weeks, the Board would like to organize open consultations with members in order to inform its recommendations for both categories. We are especially interested in members’ views of the options in recommendation 13 concerning the hosting arrangement, but equally welcome members’ thoughts on other aspects of the report.

There will be various ways for members to share their views with the Board and we would encourage frank and open discussion on the report. Members can:

  • Participate in webinars that will take place in early September with support from the Secretariat (details to be provided shortly);
  • Engage in conversations on Discuss (the forum section of IATI’s website);
  • Participate in constituency calls or meetings;
  • Provide written comments to a Board member.

You can also contact me by email if you have any questions or suggestions or if you prefer to organise a call with myself or another Board member.

Best regards,
Stephen Potter
Chair, IATI Governing Board

(Anna Densham) #2

I would like to congratulate Powered by Data for a strong report, very clearly written with balanced findings and recommendations, most of which we think are right. But can I put an idea out which might be controversial and pushes much further one issue in the report i.e. the Secretariat’s provision of technical support? Should the IATI Secretariat provide ANY technical support to publishers? Given the number is rising all the time, can it possibly be sustainable? At the same time, is anyone coordinating/helping to steer the development of the private sector market for providing technical advice and tools for validation and the use of data? Could the IATI Secretariat instead provide that brokering and steering role - strategic oversight of the needs of publishers and signposting publishers to support available in the private sector, helping further stimulate its evolution?

(Bill Anderson) #3

@Anna_Densham this is not controversial at all. (The report is indeed a little thin on the role of the Technical Team.)

Commercial services are already available in the UK and the Netherlands and are being used by some of the bigger institutions both to publish and visualise data. A number of the new big publishers have made use of private sector support. The Tech Team does not see itself in competition with these companies, but I’m not sure it is in a position to broker or steer between competing services.

What the Tech Team is involved in are efforts to build a repository of tools that can be shared by the whole community. A pot of money dedicated to sharing the development of this repository with the private sector would be a great help in accelerating this process. (There is a widely held misconception that “open source” means “free”: it may be free to use but it takes proper money to build properly.)

If the number of IATI publishers starts to grow exponentially, the majority will be small organisations that are unlikely to be able to afford to pay for technical support, and the Tech Team will not be able to provide one-to-one support for all. For this reason the development of a suite of machine-delivered support services is also one of our highest priorities.

(Reid Porter) #4

Going to try to keep this reasonably short.

First off, congrats to Powered by Data and the IATI Board - the report was insightful and well-researched. It was clearly not a token exercise, and as such I don’t intend this as token praise. Seriously nice job :slight_smile:

Governance, Secretariat, and Hosting Arrangements
I fully support the options suggested (3 and 4) and the balance of independence, financial integrity, and nimbleness addressed in each. I think the addition of an ED will clarify roles, accountability, and “focus the mind” of the Secretariat on what must be done for the betterment and protection of the standard (i.e. seek additional funding, invest more heavily in core infrastructure and technical team staffing, provide the right mix of active services and passive benefits to incentivize engagement, etc.) Finally, I think the momentum that IATI has generated to date (in the form of an engaged community, multiple complementary advocacy initiatives and organizations, strong donor support, etc.) mitigate the need for embedding the Secretariat in a larger organization.

My opinions on funding contributions are less clear, but in general I believe we should (1) incentivize the behavior we wish to encourage, and (2) draw funds from those that derive the most value. (2) suggests that like EITI, we should charge fees to publishers, but this conflicts with (1), namely because we want organizations to publish more, not less. However, given the volume of data that donors publish, as opposed to second or third tier implementers, I would support a highly progressive fee structure that charged donors more and other publishers less or even nothing. The shortfall can and should be filled with additional project-based grants and third party funding sources. (In fact, InterAction uses a mixed fee/grant model, and it is effective in making the organization accountable to members generally while ensuring that it is not overly constrained by individual or small groups of members.)

(Re. Recs. 3 and 4) While I do not disagree in principle that private sector entities should have as much standing in the governance of IATI as CSOs do, I am wary of the incentives that adding a board seat or two would create. A stronger COI policy aside, it seems strange to me to invite those who provide services to also participate in board/governance of the initiative. (And to be clear, I have yet to meet a single IATI service provider that is not a downright outstanding human being and faithful open data advocate :slight_smile: ) In short, I think we should be careful about elevating the private sector’s role in IATI governance, while at the same time encouraging their role in IATI implementation. The latter would, I think, enhance rather than dilute the role of CSO and partner country government entities in IATI governance, board representation, and engagement. Reasonable people may disagree. For those involved in other similar initiatives or standards, is this common practice?

I may have more to say later on the topic of membership incentives, but I’m still cogitating on that chapter of the report.

(theo.sande) #5

Hosting and the Secretariat

  • Although maybe somewhat premature in view of the major challenges ahead, preference is for option 3 or 4 in recommendation 13.
  • In the current and previous institutional arrangement, IATI secretariat is predominantly vested within the domain of the hosting arrangement (UNDP-DI and DFID-DI respectively). If we prefer to retain the Secretariat’s current core functions (as described on p 50 of the report), the first challenge is how to draw this knowledge, functions and expertise within IATI.
  • The continuation of this kind of dependence on services provided by the hosting arrangement is undesirable in view of the maturity and ambitions of IATI and should be addressed by establishing an autonomous IATI secretariat, independent from current or future hosting arrangements.
  • Terms such as ‘technical team’ and ‘technical lead’ need to be clearly defined, including their relation and responsibilities vis-à-vis the MA, GB and (the rest of?) the secretariat. Particularly interesting will be the relation between ‘technical lead’ and ‘executive director’, as recommended under 11.
  • As indicated in the report: a number of steps will be required to effectuate an independent secretariat. The total duration of such transition is uncertain as it depends on many variables, but will require well over one year of sustained effort at a minimum. Contrary to the report it is our position that all options (and not just options 3 and 4) require such an effort.


  • In the argumentation of recommendation 1. on prioritizing and incentivizing support to publishers, the risks in charging fees for technical support or making it conditional are overrated. The important goal of IATI to increase the numbers of publishers is currently much more effectively reached through bilateral donors. This leaves for the secretariat/technical team/support the priority tasks to improve data quality, thereby encouraging the use of our data.
  • The risks of charging fees for technical support or making it conditional on becoming a member has to be balanced against the advantages of increased quality of data and –therefore- their use and against a more broadly shared ownership and funding of IATI.


  • The recommendation 4 to create a separate category of private sector membership is a good one, probably with the extension of ‘and other’. The foundations could also be included in this category.
  • In the same vein, we should use the opportunity to separate the current ‘providers of development cooperation’ category into two separate categories: bilateral donors (as the only true providers of aid) and multilateral organisations (who are as much recipients of aid as cso’s).
  • This leads to an alternative proposal on recommendation 10 Governing Board on the enlargement to ten members with the following composition: 2 partner countries, 2 bilateral donors, 2 multilateral organisations, 2 cso, 2 private sector/foundations and other + chair TAG
  • Recommendation 5 on partner country members (either fee or travel cost) is excellent, making recommendation 6 on the possibility of providing a waiver on membership fee unacceptable.
  • The recommendation 8 on the partner country travel budget is fine. Partner countries should be encouraged to develop a proposal for the MA with criteria determining ‘the best way’ to allocate the budget, taking into consideration IATI priorities on use and relevance.

Code of Conduct

  • Strengthening recommendation 3 members of IATI Governing Board we prefer that GB Members and the organisations they work for are excluded from benefitting from contracts awarded (or renewed) by IATI. Since this prevents a (potential) conflict of interest, they do not have to recuse from discussions which, after all, is in their area of expertise.

Revision of IATI Standard Upgrade Procedures
(theo.sande) #6

IATI as a network

Finally there is one issue that was not addressed in the institutional arrangement report and yet deserves our full attention since it will influence the discussions on the future direction of IATI. Listening carefully, there are indications of diverging views on the identity of IATI and/or the direction in which the initiative should develop. So far, IATI was conceived as a network initiative maintaining a standard.
Some are understanding the ambition with respect to use of data into the development of IATI as a platform for development data. The recommendations as formulated in the report are based on the reconfirmation that we consider IATI as a network maintaining a standard.

(Reid Porter) #7

I think I catch your meaning but can you clarify?

By network, do you mean the Secretariat, the broader member/TAG community, or all of the above?

What does “platform for development data” mean to you exactly?

My concern is that seeing IATI (as an entity, network, or community) solely as a supplier of a standard means abdicating the role of protecting and promoting that standard, which encompasses a much broader range of responsibility (investing or at least supporting tools, services, outreach, ensuring data is not just fit for purpose but used according to purpose, etc.)

There’s also something to be said for what our “customers” want and expect of IATI, regardless of what we intend to provide, because if we believe our product is a public good, we need to ensure that it is seen as relevant to diverse groups of customers, not just ourselves. I think this is what @bill_anderson was getting at in another thread where he said:

When typhoon Haiyan hit everyone asked where the data was and when would IATI be ready to deliver. When the Kathmandu earthquake struck we were again cornered into the same embarrassing silence. IATI still has little to offer in timely and relevant data to assist Syrian refugees or those affected by famine in East Africa.

I would like to support @ximboden’s plea (and threat). The Grand Bargain needs IATI and IATI needs the Grand Bargain…

TL;DR - Per @stevieflow, we can make the standard useful, usable, and have done so, but in-use implies a different set of challenges and opportunities that I see as part and parcel of the data use discussion.

But I may have misinterpreted what you meant, @theo.sande

(Anna Densham) #8

Contributing current thoughts on all the recommendations:


  • Regarding Recommendation 1 - we need to address recommendation 2 first which will help to out issues about what the incentives for membership really are, allowing us to consider whether they can be sustainably met over the longer term, and whether membership should be linked to technical support. Until then we cannot agree Rec 1. Taking Bill’s point about building a repository, the question is less about whether organisations can pay the Sec for support (DFID is expecting to pay additional costs to delivery partners of building the capacity to publish to IATI) but what the role of the Secretariat should be. I think it would be helpful to take this discussion further to ensure a clear vision of the balance of effort, what and how technical support is provided in the short, medium and longer-term and how that matches expectations.
  • Rec 2 - I hope we can make progress on at the Members Assembly - happy to help pen a number of options before then,.
  • We support Recs 3 & 4, and believe the value of private sector (and Foundation, etc. - taking Theo’s point) membership, is for the different strategic, long-term view that the right representatives could bring, including (from a consultation call on Thursday) an industry, private sector and private/non-ODA financing perspective. I’m not convinced we can fully separate representation on the Board from commercial interest other than through managing conflict of interest as in rec 3.

Funding - no specific recommendation in the review on fundraising but we shouldn’t lose sight of the point that there are potential funding avenues currently not being tapped.

Recs 5,6 and 8 - we agree, and agree with Theo’s point on 8 that clear criteria/allocation process needs to be developed and shared. Also agree in principle with 7 but think that agreement and preparation to change the hosting arrangements should take precedent timing wise over the review/proposal forming for the fee structure. We also would hope it doesn’t become overly time-consuming to administer.

Rec11 (appt of an Executive Director) is possibly the most significant of all. We strongly support this in principle but would like to see the likely costs. Rec 9 we are giving more thought to - it will be affected by Rec 10 which we support but would also like to consider Theo’s suggestion on a different split. Rec12 we agree with.

We prefer option 3 or 4/or a formulation of the two, and suspect that attracting good staff and legal registration issues will be key determinants of location (Rec14).

In terms of additional information it would be useful to have to consider before the Members Assembly, in addition to suggested membership value propositions, it would be very helpful to have approximate cost scenarios for each hosting option with and without an executive director, with a budget breakdown that shows e.g. staffing positions, office rent, equipment, coms, etc.

Many thanks.

(Siem Vaessen) #9

Thanks for the report, helpful insights and recommendations indeed. We agree with a more granular approach on Membership fees and would be very much in support of Recommendation 4. This would bolster the private sector in the community and would provide potentially more leverage as a PS community, their ideas and how to convey them to either the TAG or MA.

We also would be very supportive of Recommendation 11.

On 4.5, we noticed no recommendation at all, while some concerns are raised in 4.5. We would expect at least one recommendation to come out of 4.5. We also missed the existential link in between MA and TAG. While rightfully so, MA retains final decision-makers of the standard, we would endorse perhaps a more formal process or advise from TAG to MA on the evolution of the standard. Looking at the current way of working with IATI upgrades and the consent driven approach, we miss guidelines on the TAG/MA as part of 4.5

(Simona Marinescu) #10

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.

General comments

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.

(Carolyn Culey) #11

Development Initiatives (DI) has been involved in IATI from the outset and our longstanding commitment means that we will continue to champion IATI irrespective of whether we play a part in the future hosting arrangements. In response to the report:

  1. We are in broad agreement with recommendations 1-12 whilst noting that many of these suggestions are not new.
  2. We share the view that IATI has matured to a point where a more streamlined approach to hosting is required.
  3. We are concerned that the report lacks an assessment of the costs, benefits and risks associated with the options presented, and believe that members need this to make an informed decision.
  4. The section on transitional arrangements is very top-line and significantly under-estimates the time, costs and challenges involved in ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of IATI at the same time as moving towards a new hosting arrangement.
  5. This is especially true on the technical side, which merits relatively little comment in the report. Technical services could be delivered in many different ways in future and it may be useful for the Board to commission a short cost-benefit analysis of the options.
  6. We are not convinced by the assertion that “most recommendations wouldn’t incur higher costs than those already expended”. The recruitment of three new senior positions and the relocation of all IATI staff to a high-cost city will inevitably increase the Secretariat’s running costs. In addition, a wholly independent Secretariat would need to pay for office space.
  7. Given that Y4 of the current hosting arrangement is the first year in which IATI hasn’t faced a budget deficit , we would caution against assuming that IATI has achieved financial sustainability, and note that any future cash-flow problems could pose a serious risk to a stand-alone Secretariat.
  8. The report focuses on the high-level positions that need to be recruited to the future Secretariat, but says little about the daily work required to “keep the lights on”. Failure to prioritise this and ensure stability during the transition phase could pose serious risks to IATI.
  9. With regard to the transitional arrangements:
    • Neither the appointment of a transition co-ordinator nor an interim ED is budgeted for in the current Y5 work-plan agreed by the MA in June 2016.
    • The time-estimate of one year to establish IATI as a legal entity may be ambitious depending on the location chosen, and both the legal and accounting costs need to be factored in.
    • Preserving institutional memory is referred to but the measures proposed to address this are inadequate, and ignore the risk that key staff may choose to move on sooner rather than later, with consortium members unable to backfill these positions on a short-term basis.
  10. In conclusion, while we support the thrust of the recommendations on membership, funding and governance, we are concerned that the options and recommendations on hosting do not provide sufficient information to enable members to make a decision, that greater attention should be given to future technical support requirements and the best way of delivering them, and that a more detailed, fully-costed and better thought-through plan should be developed for the transition period, which may need to be extended in order to ensure a smooth handover.

(Anna Densham) #12

Here’s a suggestion to kick start thinking on an IATI membership value proposition:

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as continuing humanitarian need around the world, continue to demand that all development stakeholders work in increasingly smarter ways to be ever more effective in helping to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering. Technology continues to evolve and provide us with new ways to achieve this.

Since the Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011, there has been an exciting growth in momentum to share and use data to support our collective efforts towards the SDGs. IATI’s vision is for transparent, good quality information on development resources and results to be available and used by all stakeholder groups to help achieve sustainable development outcomes. As the IATI community, we have the potential to transform the aid landscape with rapid growth in the publication and use of data since IATI’s technical infrastructure is open to all data publishers and users involved in the aid landscape.

The IATI open data standard is a global public good that enables any organization to publish data that is compatible with data from other IATI publishers and, increasingly, with data about public procurement and public spending. As such, IATI data provides a basis for the essential integration of data on aid and development finance with budget and other data in partner countries, as well as stronger financial management and accountability for how it is spent and what it delivers.

Becoming a member of the IATI community offers organisations around the world the unique opportunity to help make this vision a reality. Our mission is threefold: 1) to ensure transparency of data on development resources and results; 2) to ensure the quality of IATI data is continually improved and responds to the needs of all stakeholders and 3) to facilitate access to effective tools and support so that IATI data contributes to the achievement of sustainable development outcomes.

Why join us as a member?

Demonstrate visionary, international leadership. Membership is a clear statement of commitment to the principles of aid transparency, to implement the IATI standard and help the IATI standard succeed. It brings reputational benefits and provides a forum in which organisations can showcase their work. It also opens up a vibrant network of colleagues for sharing practice and knowledge, collaborating and innovating. IATI’s members are diverse, including civil society, multilateral, donor and partner country governments and private sector organisations from all corners of the world.

Make IATI work for you. Being a member provides the opportunity to shape the future of aid transparency, as IATI is at the forefront of global aid transparency efforts. Members steer the initiative by participating in the annual Members’ Assembly and voting on IATI’s priorities, budget, work plan and changes to the standard. They also share their experience at the Members’ Assembly and in other events to shape the evolution of the IATI open data standard, as a global public good and the architecture of publishing and data use tools that surrounds it.

Be the lifeblood of IATI. Members provide the funding that keeps IATI running. It is essential to maintaining and improving IATI’s technical infrastructure (e.g. Registry, Datastore, D-portal), to providing support for the publication and use of data, and to raising awareness about the contribution of open aid data to achieving the SDGs. It is part of IATI’s DNA for its members to contribute in proportion to their ability: donor members, including bilateral agencies, multilateral organizations and foundations contribute more so that any organization, no matter how small, can publish and use IATI data. Every new publisher increases the value of everyone else’s data, and of the initiative. It is in our common interest to have as many publishers and users of the data as possible, to ensure the technical infrastructure facilitates this and evolves appropriately, and tools to support publishing and using data are developed and freely available. Members make this happen.