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Setting Standards in Aid Data Collection & Sharing Experience by OECD/DAC Working Party on Statistics (WP-STAT) Hedwig Riegler Chair, DAC Working Party.

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Presentation on theme: "Setting Standards in Aid Data Collection & Sharing Experience by OECD/DAC Working Party on Statistics (WP-STAT) Hedwig Riegler Chair, DAC Working Party."— Presentation transcript:

1 Setting Standards in Aid Data Collection & Sharing Experience by OECD/DAC Working Party on Statistics (WP-STAT) Hedwig Riegler Chair, DAC Working Party on Statistics (WP-STAT) Speaking Notes, IATI Conference, The Hague 20-21 October 2009

2 Setting Standards 1 Setting a standard setting a common standard Present situation is one of setting individual standards: Proliferation of individual initiatives struggling to establish an aid data collection/sharing sytem and the related standard, leading to multiple parallel workstreams For aid data reporters, policy staff & desk officers unmanagable surge of: Requests to supply or verify data, validate publications, or correct wrong information Requests for assistance in building data-sharing platforms or web-databases and in resolving related methodological issues Diversion of donor resources away from aid delivery concerns to aid description Leading to: Data/information quality problems (by overburdening aid administrations) Unsustainable /uncared-for systems Reporting fatique Required response: Harmonisation of activities in aid data collection, sharing and publication common standards ? Yes, common standards in the area of aid data collection/sharing activities.

3 Setting Standards 2 If IATI aims at harmonising the multiplicity of aid data collection/sharing standards into a common standard, why then do aid data reporters have doubts? There are no doubts on the aim itself, but on the HOW Setting a common standard passing legislation The essence of sustainable common standards is not to acquire the power to pass and impose a legislation on data reporting, but the creation of a common understanding of underlying definitions and concepts and ownership for the standards It takes complex and lengthy participatory processes of joint debate and joint decision to arrive at a common understanding and ownership and thus sustainability of the standards. However, speed is always an issue when it comes to publishing information. A single common (universal) standard and an all-in-one system that try to satisfy all data/information needs of all stakeholders will not allow for these necessary joint processes, for various reasons: Level of detail aspired (tracking flows from their origin to their final results, including aid management systems inbetween) would lead to a data complexity that makes common processes on their collection impossible Speed (timeliness) invariably leads to major quality issues (no time for joint definitial processes that lead to a common understanding and thus ensure comparability, no time for proper updating processes on early data) Common standards are no quick win, but they ensure sustainability of systems and data quality Different roles and purposes of information systems cannot, at reasonable cost, be fitted under one standard/system. However, this should not be the reason for fully delinking aid information systems

4 Setting Standards 3 Setting a common standard starting all over again Attempts at setting a common standard should always start with a thorough analysis of what exists and firmly build on this. To start all over could endanger the existing and the new standards alike and lead to a deterioration of standards (and data quality) in general (by overload of those whose input is required). OECD/DAC is the most comprehensive, long-standing, firmly-rooted and well-maintained common standard in the field of aid data. It is the DAC donors common standard on aid outflows, and as such cannot simultaneously play other roles (e.g. aid management, results tracking etc.). It cannot be the only system, but it definitely should be the starting point. It should be used for feeding outflow data into systems that serve other purposes (first and foremost recipient partners aid management) and complement the picture on aid from other aspects. Initiatives to establish other systems complementary to the existing OECD/DAC system need to ensure that they link up with the OECD/DAC system. The complete disconnect of aid outflow management systems and aid inflow management systems has led to very serious problems.

5 Setting Standards 4 Problems caused by delinking aid data systems Identical aid is pictured in different, often contradictory, ways on account of completely separate data collection Different/contradictory analytical messages derive from data (on the same aid) from different systems Donors cannot identify their aid data and relate them back to their own records when asked to update Recipient partner governments get wrong information Automatic or semi-automatic data exchange between these systems is impossible, diverting significant aid personnel resources away from their actual functions to labour-consuming double data entry and updating procedures. Instead of delivering aid and improving practices, we only fill questionnaires and databases (Desks) Data provision, updating or advice for system improvement has become unmanagable by aid statisticians due to the number of systems and variety of standards Therefore, systems that capture aid from different aspects or for different purposes should nevertheless have a defined set (small or larger) of shared variables through which the systems stay linked, facilitating data identification and data exchange. IATIs role could be to identify how existing systems can be linked up to form a coherent network.

6 Setting Standards 5 The better option than all-in-one Invest in existing systems to make their data better available, increase user friendliness, and descriptiveness Invest in linking up now disconnected systems to arrive at a coherent landscape of different systems for different roles; especially link up donor outflow management and recipient government inflow management Test how far CRS/DAC satisfies the needs of the partner country aid management See what can be done to bridge the existing CRS/DAC statistics and the requirements by the partner countries Start simple and try to run on a pilot basis, to monitor how well the new transparency mechanism works and what does not work and why Strengthen self-developed data systems in countries where they are running successfully

7 Setting Standards 6 Expectations by aid data reporters as to IATIs role and activities: Harmonise the current approaches by initiatives creating individual stardards and delinked data collection/sharing systems, as they are weakening aid systems Ensure a minimum of coherence between aid data/information systems by defining the links between them Simultaneously, leave ample room for different systems to perform different roles and move at different speeds. Define a general framework for donors to publish their own aid data on their own websites, thus filling the gaps that statistical data collections, by nature, cannot fill. Invest in existing data collection systems to improve on coverage, descriptive quality and timeliness rather than creating new ones Acknowledge that there is a limit to timeliness - early data normally are provisional data. timely data require the establishment of standard updating procedures, otherwise data quality is at risk. Publication of early data is not only a politically sensitive issue but also a data quality issue (contradictory data based on different measurement points in time)

8 Setting Standards 7 Avoid duplication. Not only in the sense of avoiding to collect what someone else has already collected. Especially, avoid duplicate processes. E.g. future flows: processes of data provision on future flows between donor and recipient partner already exist. They should rather be strengthened and improved and not be undermined by establishing additional (parallel) processes of future data provision For better predictability of aid, instead of creating a universal collection system on future aid flows, urge and support donors to overcome existing obstacles to longer-term, predictable budget allocations (budget legislation, composition of aid portfolio). Avoid too much detail. Tracing all aid as it goes through the system means establishing a sort of accounting system. Ensuring common standards in such a complex, detailed system is impossible (especially if standards cannot be imposed but need to be negotiated). Talk to us DAC statistical reporters when it comes to standards and aid data. We are at the heart of aid data collection, management, exchange and publication and the related problems. Talk to us as a body, not as individuals. Because the essence of maintaining a common standard is: joint debate, common understanding, joint decision.

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