A new report from the organization Open Government Partnership shows that Sweden has made progress in terms of transparency in development assistance, but that there are still a number of shortcomings. In particular, better information is needed on when, to whom and why development assistance funds have been paid out. The government must also allocate sufficient resources to ensure transparency in the implementation and follow-up of the policy for global development (PGU), writes the report's author Alina Östling.
Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international initiative that promotes transparency, accountability and civic influence with the help of new technology. The number of members of the OGP has increased from 8 to 75 countries since 2011. Member countries must make concrete commitments for increased transparency in public administration (often called “open government”) - commitments which are then evaluated by independent researchers every two years. The newcomer, final The OGP evaluation shows that Sweden, which is otherwise at the forefront of openness and accountability, lacks transparency in development assistance.
In order to improve the transparency of development assistance, the OGP evaluation, in agreement with several Swedish civil society organizations, proposes some concrete measures. The government needs to improve the information on when, to whom and why development assistance has been paid out, and what the result was - especially with regard to the costs of receiving refugees. The government must also be able to guarantee transparency in the implementation and follow-up of the Swedish policy for global development (PGU), which means that all policy areas must contribute to a fair and sustainable global development. Sufficient funds and human resources must be set aside to implement PGU and actively involve civil society organizations in policy follow-up.
Improve transparency from decision to follow-up
Globally, Sweden is a top-performing country when it comes to transparency in development assistance activities. In 2016, Sweden ended up in 9th place in Aid Transparency Index, which is based on a comprehensive review of all major bilateral and multilateral donors. But still, both the quantity and quality of aid data can be improved.
One of the most important points in Sweden's OGP action plan for 2014-2016 was about fulfilling the commitments in the transparency guarantee. Transparency guarantee is a policy document adopted in 2010 which means that all public information about development assistance must be made available on the web. The information must make clear when, to whom and why development assistance funds have been paid out, and what the result was. But despite Sweden's progress, the guarantee of transparency is not fully implemented.
A large part of development assistance expenditure is still only traceable at the general level, which means that development assistance cannot be monitored throughout the entire chain of processes - from decisions and implementation to follow-up. In particular, greater transparency is required regarding settlements for refugee costs. At present, refugee costs make up a large part of the development assistance budget and Sweden should make it possible for the public to follow these costs on Openaid.se (a web-based information service on Sweden's development assistance). According to some actors in civil society, Sweden should also undertake to administer refugee costs separately from the development assistance budget.
Strengthen the dialogue with civil society
In the OGP action plan, Sweden also set the goal of increasing the participation of civil society organizations in the development of development aid policy, something that has been deficient in recent years. An important milestone reached was the government's decision on joint commitments with Swedish civil society organizations for strengthened dialogue and collaboration within development cooperation. The joint commitments are intended to take advantage of the role and added value of civil society in achieving the overall development assistance objectives.
The importance of the commitments lies above all in the process that led the civil society organizations and the government to regain trust in each other and succeed in achieving a result that was satisfactory for both parties. The dialogue was open and interactive, and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) showed its commitment through the participation of senior officials. But in order for this to lead to improved cooperation in the long term, the government needs to allocate more resources for the implementation and evaluation of the commitments, and integrate these into the ministries' continuous work.
More transparency in the implementation of PGU
Another positive development was the letter on PGU which was published in May 2016. The purpose of the letter was to give PGU a fresh start through an increase in ambition and an increase in knowledge within the Government Offices and authorities. The government has formulated concrete goals for the work and has clarified the responsibility for the implementation of PGU. An inter-ministerial working group with PGU managers at unit head level from all ministries has been established and all ministries have for the first time produced internal action plans for the work with PGU linked to the Global Goals. But the government still needs to make the process of following up PGU's implementation more transparent and open to participation.
Stakeholders from civil society should have access to the ministries' action plans so that they can follow up and influence PGU's implementation. The government should also actively involve civil society organizations in the follow-up to the action plans. In addition, the government needs, in accordance with the State Office investigation report from 2014, allocate sufficient funds and human resources to implement PGU, and commission a specific institution / authority to handle and review the implementation.
The full OGP evaluation report can be downloaded here: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/country/sweden/irm.
Alina Östling has previously written a post on Biståndsdebatten.se about OGP's mid-term evaluation (April 14, 2016): http://www.bistandsdebatten.se/exkldebattartiklar/forbattra-insynen-i-vapenexport-och-flyktingkostnader/#respond