Our Perspectives


The road to transparency

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Transparency teamUNDP's transparency team discusses best practices for the open.undp.org site. Photo: Freya Morales/UNDP

As UNDP marks its 50th anniversary year, we’re also now celebrating another milestone.

We’ve been ranked as the most transparent aid organization by Publish What You Fund for the second consecutive year - a milestone in UNDP’s road to attain transparency by making its information publicly available.

Looking back at this road, it all started with our commitment towards adopting the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard to report on development projects.  The key to success is to “start with what you have” and take small steps towards making gradual improvements to achieve full compliance.

When UNDP started publishing to IATI in 2011, our biggest challenge in adopting the IATI Standard was the cultural shift needed. UNDP operates in nearly 170 countries and territories. As country offices provide the main data sources, incorporating IATI into their daily routine was inevitable.

But changing the mindsets of staff on how we operate and report was not easy. We had to prepare extensive guidelines and build systems to support data collection and processing. We created an internal transparency dashboard for country offices to monitor project information to identify the gaps and provide missing information and project documents.  As of 2016, we have greatly progressed toward setting up a fully automated system by incorporating IATI elements into our internal management systems, generating monthly reports for IATI publication.  

If you are wondering ‘how’ to publish data, I would suggest to first start with ‘why’. Public Institutions, such as the United Nations, are accountable to people’s belief that the resources they are trusted with are being utilized in the most efficient way. The development sector works in close coordination with Governments, institutions, private organizations, and communities involving valuable financial, managerial and operational resources.

It is absolutely vital to build confidence in one another by showing how these resources are being used.  Remaining open to the public not only builds a foundation of corruption-less implementation but also enables decision makers to analyze the impacts of each step involved and make informed decisions for the future.

It is also important that we start using our data for self-scrutiny. Producing better quality data leads to better planning and management of resources.

The IATI Standard has evolved greatly over the past years as more organizations have joined the initiative. At UNDP, we are continuously looking to improve our transparency, increasing the amount of information we publish while providing better quality data. In 2015, after years of coordinating country offices and assisting them in providing cleaner, more comprehensive data, UNDP began publishing project results. With an improved Project Document Centre and Transparency dashboard, we managed to share more information and documents than ever before.

We’re currently working with the UN Development Group to develop a transparency portal with data from all UN publishers. This will encourage more UN agencies to join IATI and showcase the coordinated effort of UN agencies towards transparency.

Achieving transparency is not a one-time effort but a continuous process. It starts with the political will to make information public. Measures should be taken across organizations by getting every level on board to make transparency an integral part of internal management processes.

Winning the top rank for the second consecutive year reaffirms UNDP’s commitment to achieve transparency at its core. But it also reminds us that the race does not stop here. As we move into the 2030 Agenda, the need for access to information has never been greater. At UNDP, as we look forward to the road ahead, we remain committed to lead the way towards achieving higher transparency goals.  

* Latest data can be found at IATI registry and open.undp.org.

Abdul Riza Blog post Development Effectiveness Effective development cooperation International aid transparency initiative Transparency