Open Up: Increasing the accountability of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands by utilizing the International Aid Transparency Initiative for monitoring purposes
Vroomen, S.D.M. de
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In the field of international development aid there is an increasing demand for accountability. The reason for this is the growing awareness about the need for making development aid more effective and efficient. The concept of accountability is considered as a highly complex construct which should be thought of as a relation between an object of accountability and an agent of accountability, in which the former is held accountable by the latter. There are various means to achieve accountability. Transparency is one of these means. After various High Level Forums on Aid Effectiveness, different stakeholders in aid development cooperation concluded that mutual accountability deserved specific attention. For this reason, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) was founded. IATI is an international standard according to which organizations can publish data about their aid activities. These datasets are meant to be made publicly available. In this way, aid flows become more transparent with having the ultimate goal of making aid more efficient and effective. The publicly available datasets can be used for different purposes. One of these purposes for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (MoFA) is to increase its accountability by utilizing IATI compliant datasets for monitoring purposes. This study explores first of all about what, to whom and how a government development agency is accountable and secondly how an agency’s accountability can be enhanced by utilizing a transparency instrument, such as IATI, for monitoring the development objectives of activities that are carried out by NGOs or CSOs and financed by a government development agency. The analyzed documents and interviews held at MoFA demonstrate that an object of accountability can be held to account for the claims and envisioned objectives that it makes. In the case of MoFA, these claims and objectives are outlined in various documents, being the coalition agreement the most abstract one trickling down to policy frameworks at divisions’ levels. The empirical data shows that there is a strong external and upward notion of accountability at MoFA. IATI blurs these directions because publishing information is not longer being done for one particular agent. Instead, the data will be published once and can be used often (and for various purposes). MoFA can use the IATI compliant datasets for monitoring purposes, and thus for increasing its own accountability internally as well as externally. Drawing upon empircal data, this study demonstrates that IATI does increase the accountability of a development aid agency.