Foreign Office lags behind on international aid transparency

FCO placed 40th out of 45 on global transparency index, compared to DFID who come 3rd

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is one of the worst major donors in the world on aid transparency, according to a new Index released today [Wednesday, 20th June].

The Aid Transparency Index, launched by Publish What You Fund, ranked 45 major donor organisations globally. The Index assesses donors that spend over $1 billion in aid, evaluating how easy they make it to track the aid they provide*.

The FCO was rated ‘poor’ on its performance on aid transparency and came sixth from the bottom of the list**, placing it 40th out of 45.

Catherine Turner, Director of Advocacy at Publish What You Fund, said: “This is a wake-up call to the Foreign Office to up their game when it comes to aid transparency. Such a low ranking raises questions about how seriously the FCO is taking their commitment to improve standards.”

Recommendations from the Index for FCO improvement include***:

  • Publishing performance-related information, from objectives to results.
  • Include further details on its budgets and finances in its publications
  • Publish information monthly, or at least quarterly.

As well as the FCO, the Department for International Development (DFID) was also assessed by the Index. DFID fared better than its Whitehall counterpart coming 3rd on the Index with a ‘very good’ rating.

Speaking about DFID, Turner continued: “DFID’s strong result should be applauded – they have shown leadership in improving the transparency of how they deliver aid, and these results highlight this – I urge them to continue on this path.”

UK aid is highly respected globally, so ensuring that any part of Whitehall which delivers aid reaches the highest standards of transparency is key.

Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of The ONE Campaign, said: “The UK provides some of the most impactful and respected aid in the world. Maintaining this reputation means upping our game on transparency of aid spent outside DFID.

“Being able to track aid every step of the way is absolutely crucial in telling the story of the work the UK does to support the world’s poorest people. Without transparency we risk undermining public trust in our life-saving aid.”

Over the last four years the UK Government has delivered all the increases in UK aid outside of DFID, so that in 2017 the eleven other government Departments that deliver UK aid accounted for just over a quarter of its total, equivalent to £3.8 billion.

Simon Wright, Director of International Development Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns at Save the Children, said:“This year’s ratings show that DFID remains a world-leader in effective aid and transparency. However, as an increasing proportion of UK aid is being spent by other departments, more needs to be done to replicate these high standards across government.

“Despite the Government’s commitment to delivering high quality UK aid, no matter which department is responsible, the FCO has returned to the Index with the same ‘Poor’ rating it had from 2012 to 2014. Urgent progress is needed to ensure that every department meets the same standards as DFID, so that the impact of all UK aid is equally clear, and taxpayers can have faith that it is delivering for the most deprived and marginalised children.”

The 2015 UK Aid Strategy committed all Government Departments who provide aid to being ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in the Aid Transparency Index by 2020. Today’s results throw their likelihood of achieving this target into doubt.

Katy Chakrabortty, Head of Advocacy at Oxfam GB, said: “It’s a worrying irony that, amongst the departments other than DFID spending aid, the Foreign Office has taken the most strides towards transparency, yet remains almost rock bottom in the rankings. The departments left out of this year’s index are even further behind. This is not good enough at a time when the Government already spends over a quarter of UK aid outside of DFID, which remains the department best placed to tackle poverty.

“The Government needs to have a clear roadmap which it pursues with real political determination to ensure that by 2020 all aid spending matches DFID’s world-leading standards. That is vital to ensure UK aid is doing all it can for the world’s poorest people.”

Sarah Johns, Transparency Manager at Bond and Vice Chair of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI): “If Bond’s smallest member organisations are able to meet global transparency standards I do not understand why the FCO is still lagging far behind. What we are seeing here is a lack of political will power from the FCO to match the rest of the development and aid sector on agreed standards when it comes to aid transparency and accountability.

In the eyes of the British public, FCO failures to meet DFID’s high levels of project impact, transparency and accountability, risk tarring all aid spending with the same brush.”


For media enquiries please contact Chris Mitchell via [email protected] or 07901006799

Notes to Editors:

*Metrics include The 2018 Index methodology uses 35 indicators to monitor aid transparency. The indicators have been selected using the information types agreed in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard. The 35 indicators are arranged across five key components:

  • Organisational planning and commitments to aid transparency
  • Finance and budgets
  • Project attributes (for example titles, descriptions and sub-national locations)
  • Joining-up development data (with other important streams of information such as country budgets)
  • Performance (for example impact appraisals, progress towards targets, evaluations)

**The organisations below the FCO are:
41. UN OCHA (poor)
42. New Zealand, MFAT (poor)
43. Japan, MOFA (v. poor)
44. UAE, MOFAIC (v. poor)
45. China, MOFCOM (v.poor).
***The reports full recommendations are:

Recommendations for FCO:

  • The UK-FCO should aim for quarterly, if not monthly, publication.
  • It should make further improvements to its publication, to include further details on its budgets and finances.
  • It should start publishing performance-related information, from objectives to results.
  • To demonstrate the impact of transparency on development work, UK-FCO should take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

Recommendations for DFID:

· UK-DFID should prioritise the publication of sub-national locations to the IATI Registry.
· It should make further improvements to its publication of contacts and tenders, as well as results.
· To demonstrate the impact of transparency on development work, UK-DFID should take responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish: internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level.

Please click here for more information about the UK aid strategy.

The Aid Transparency Index is distinct from the International Aid transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to improve the transparency of aid, development and humanitarian resources, which enables information on aid and development activities to be shared in an open format. Organisations publish information by linking their aid data to the IATI Registry, which acts as an online catalogue of links to all of the raw data published to the Standard.

About Publish What You Fund:

Publish What You Fund is the global campaign for aid transparency. Launched in 2008, it has produced the Aid Transparency Index since 2011 (2018 is the sixth full Index report – NB this link will go live at midday on the 20th) to monitor and encourage progress towards aid transparency. The report is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major aid organisations.

About ONE:

The ONE Campaign is a non-partisan policy and advocacy organization of more than 9 million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

About Oxfam GB:

Oxfam is a global movement of people all working towards the same goal – an end to the injustice of poverty. Together we save and rebuild lives in disasters, help people earn a living, and speak out on the big issues, like inequality and climate change, that keep people poor. And we won’t stop until we get there.

About Bond:

Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 450 civil society organisations and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.

About Save the Children:

Save the Children fights every single day for children’s futures. We stand side by side with children in the toughest places to be a child. In places where others won’t go, we’re there, giving everything to make sure they survive, get protected, and have the chance to learn.
Because every child should get to make their mark on the world, and build a better future for us all.