UN humanitarian arm joins initiative making aid data easier to locate

20 December 2012

The United Nations emergency relief arm announced today it has signed up to an initiative designed to make information about aid spending easier to find.

“Signing up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is a significant step towards greater accountability and data usability,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“It is a demonstration of OCHA’s commitment to transparency, which is crucial for monitoring our impact and improving our effectiveness,” she added.

IATI is a multi-stakeholder initiative that has brought together donors, aid-recipient governments, civil society and aid information experts to agree on a common, open, international standard for publishing information about humanitarian and development aid, according to a news release from OCHA.

The World Food Programme (WFP), another UN emergency relief agency, signed up to IATI some five months ago, its spokesperson said.

OCHA said it is already presenting information about aid contributions in a format that is compatible with industry standards and in line with other open data initiatives.

“OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS) has been publishing data on international humanitarian aid reported by donors and recipient organizations for the past 20 years,” the agency release stated. “By working with IATI and meeting its standards, data reported to FTS will become more accessible, allowing technical users to convert the information into databases, spreadsheets, web applications, printed documents and data visualizations.”

Aid data is widely used by governments for planning and financial management, as well as to improve coordination, OCHA noted. Civil society organizations and the general public in both recipient and donor countries analyze data to improve their understanding of how and where humanitarian aid money is being used to save lives and help people in need.

OCHA signed up to IATI in August, and began providing data according to its standards in mid-December. There are now 35 IATI signatories, including donors, multilateral organizations and several other UN agencies, and 22 developing country governments have endorsed IATI.

“We encourage all humanitarian organizations to explore ways of collaborating with open data initiatives,” said Ms. Amos.


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